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Full text of "The recreations of Christopher North [pseud.]"

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THE 



RECREATIONS 



or 



CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



COMPLETE IN ONE VOLUME. 



BOSTON: 

PHILLIPS, SAMPSON, AND COMPANY 

NEW YORK: JAMES C. DERBY. 

1854. 



By Transfer 
JUN • 1* 



1854 



CONTENTS 



CHRISTOPHER IN HIS SPORTING JACKET, 

Fytte First 5 

Fytte Second 15 

Fttte Third 24 

A TALE OF EXPIATION 33 

MORNING MONOLOGUE 44 

THE FIELD OF FLOWERS 50 

COTTAGES 55 

AN HOUR'S TALK ABOUT POETRY 72 

INCH CRUIN 91 

A DAY AT WINDERMERE 95 

THE MOORS, 

Prologue 103 

Flight First — Glen Etive 113 

Flight Second — The Coves of Cruachan 122 

Flight Third — Still Life 129 

Flight Fourth — Down River and up Loch 140 

HIGHLAND SNOW-STORM 150 

THE HOLY CHILD 157 

OUR PARISH 161 

MAY-DAY 168 

SACRED POETRY, 

Chapter 1 182 

Chapter n 188 

Chapter III 195 

Chapter IV 200 

CHRISTOPHER IN HIS AVIARY, 

First Canticle 203 

Second Canticle 213 

Third Canticle 222 

Fourth Canticle 228 

DR. KITCHINER, 

First Course 234 

Second Course 238 

Third Course 241 

Fourth Course 245 

SOLILOQUY ON THE SEASONS, 

First Rhapsody 249 

Second Rhapsody 255 

A FEW WORDS ON THOMSON 260 

THE SNOWBALL BICKER OF PEDMOUNT 267 

CHRISTMAS DREAMS 271 

OUR WINTER QUARTERS 278 

STROLL TO GRASSMERE, 

First Saunter 287 

Second Saunter 297 

L'ENVOY 303 

3 



RECREATIONS 



OF 



CHRISTOPHER NORTH, 



CHRISTOPHER IN HIS SPORTING JACKET. 



FYTTE FIRST. 

There is a fine and beautiful alliance between 
all pastimes pursued on flood, field, and fell. 
The principles in human nature on which they 
depend, are in all the same ; but those princi- 
ples are subject to infinite modifications and 
varieties, according to the difference of indi- 
vidual and national character. All such pas- 
times, whether followed merely as pastimes, 
or as professions, or as the immediate means 
of sustaining life, require sense, sagacity, and 
knowledge of nature and nature's laws ; nor 
less, patience, perseverance, courage even, and 
bodily strength or activity, while the spirit 
which animates and supports them is a spirit 
of anxiety, doubt, fear, hope, joy, exultation, 
and triumph — in the heart of the young a 
fierce passion — in the heart of the old a 
passion still, but subdued and tamed down, 
without, however, being much dulled or dead- 
ened, by various experience of all the myste- 
ries of the calling, and by the gradual subsid- 
ing of all impetuous impulses in the frames 
of all mortal men beyond perhaps threescore, 
when the blackest head will be becoming gray, 
the most nervous knee less firmly knit, the 
most steely-springed instep less elastic, the 
keenest eye less of a far-keeker, and, above 
all, the most boiling heart less like a caldron 
or a crater — yea, the whole man subject to 
some dimness or decay, and, consequently, 
the whole duty of man like the new edition 
of a book, from which many passages that 
formed the chief glory of the editio princeps have 
been expunged — the whole character of the style 
corrected without being thereby improved — just 
iike the later editions of the Pleasures of Ima- 
gination, which were written by Akenside when 
he was about twenty-one, and altered by him 
at forty — to the exclusion or destruction of 
many most splendida vitia, by which process 
the poem, in our humble opinion, was shorn 
of its brightest beams, and suffered disastrous 
twilight and eclipse — perplexing critics. 

Now, seeing that such pastimes are in num- 
ber almost infinite, and infinite the varieties of 



human character, pray what is there at all sur- 
prising in your being madly fond of shooting — 
and your brother Tom just as foolish about 
fishing — and cousin Jack perfectly insane on 
fox-hunting — while the old gentleman your fa- 
ther, in spite of wind and weather, perennial 
gout, and annual apoplexy, goes a-coursing of 
the white-hipped hare on the bleak Yorkshire 
wolds — and uncle Ben, as if just escaped from 
Bedlam or St. Luke's, with Dr. Haslam at his 
heels, or with a few hundred yards' start of 
Dr. Warburton, is seen galloping, in a Welsh 
wig and strange apparel, in the rear of a pack 
of Lilliputian beagles, all barking as if they 
were as mad as their master, supposed to be 
in chase of an invisible animal that keeps 
eternally doubling in field and forest — "still 
hoped for, never seen," and well christened 
by the name of Escape 1 

Phrenology sets the question for ever at rest. 
All people have thirty-three faculties. Now 
there are but twenty-four letters in the alpha- 
bet ; yet how many languages — some six-thou- 
sand we believe, each of which is susceptible 
of many dialects ! No wonder, then, that you 
might as well try to count all the sands on the 
sea-shore as all the species of sportsmen. 

There is, therefore, nothing to prevent any 
man with a large and sound development 
from excelling, at once, in rat-catching and 
deer-stalking — from being, in short, a univer- 
sal genius in sports and pastimes. Heaven 
has made us such a man. 

Yet there seems to be a natural course or 
progress in pastimes. We do not now speak 
of marbles — or knuckling down at taw-~or 
trundling a hoop— or pall-lall— or pitch and 
toss — or any other of the games of the school 
playground. We restrict ourselves to what, 
somewhat inaccurately perhaps, are called 
field-sports. Thus angling seems the earliest 
of them all in the order of nature. There the 
new-breeched urchin stands on the low bridge 
of the little bit burnie ! and with crooked pin, 
baited with one unwrithing ring of a dead worm, 
and attached to a yarn-thread — for he has not 
yet got into hair, and is years off gut — his iod 
of the mere willow or hazel wand, there will 
a 2 5 



6 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



he s'and during all his play-hours, as forget- 
ful of his primer as if the weary art of print- 
ing had never been invented, day after day, 
week after week, month after month, in mute, 
deep, earnest, passionate, heart-mind-and-soul- 
engrossing hope of some time or other catch- 
ing a minnow or a beardie ! A tug — a tug ! 
With face ten times flushed and pale by turns 
ere you could count ten, he at last has strength, 
in the agitation of his fear and joy, to pull away 
at the monster — and there he lies in his beauty 
among the gowans and the greensward, for he 
has whapped him right over his head and far 
away, a fish a quarter of an ounce in weight, 
and, at the very least, two inches long ! Off he 
flies, on wings of wind, to his father, mother, 
and sisters and brothers, and cousins, and all 
the neighbourhood, holding the fish aloft in 
both hands, still fearful of its escape, and, like 
a genuine child of corruption, his eyes brighten 
at the first blush of cold blood on his small 
fumy fingers. He carries about with him, up- 
stairs and down-stairs, his prey upon a plate ; 
he will not wash his hands before dinner, for 
he exults in the silver scales adhering to the 
thumb-nail that scooped the pin out of the 
baggy's maw — and at night, " cabin'd, cribb'd, 
confined," he is overheard murmuring in his 
sleep — a thief, a robber, and a murderer, in his 
yet infant dreams ! 

From that hour Angling is no more a mere 
delightful day-dream, haunted by the dim hopes 
of imaginary minnows, but a reality — an art — 
a science — of which the flaxen-headed school- 
boy feels himself to be master — a mystery in 
which he has been initiated; and off he goes 
now all alone, in the power of successful pas- 
sion to the distant brook — brook a mile off— 
with fields, and hedges, and single trees, and 
little groves, and a huge forest of six acres, be- 
tween it and the house in which he is boarded 
or was born ! There flows on the slender music 
of the shadowy shallows — there pours the 
deeper din of the birch-tree'd waterfall. The 
scared water-pyet flits away from stone to stone, 
and dipping, disappears among the airy bubbles', 
to him a new sight of joy and wonder. And oh ! 
how sweet the scent of the broom or furze, yel- 
lowing along the braes, where leap the lambs, 
less happy than he, on the knolls of sunshine ! 
His grandfather has given him a half-crown rod 
in two pieces — yes, his line is of hair twisted — 
plaited by his own soon-instructed little fingers. 
By Heavens, he is fishing with the fly ! And 
the Fates, who, grim and grisly as they are 
painted to be by full-grown, ungrateful, lying 
poets, smile'like angels upon thepaidler in the 
brook, winnowing the air with their wings into 
western breezes, while at the very first throw 
the yellow trout forsakes his fastness beneath 
the bog-wood, and with a lazy wallop, and 
then a sudden plunge, and then a race like 
lightning, changes at once the child into the 
boy, and shoots through his thrilling and aching 
heart the ecstasy of a new life expanding in 
that glorious pastime, even as a rainbow on a 
sudden brightens up the sky. Fortuna favet 
fortibus — and with one long pull, and strong 
pull, and pull altogether, Johnny lands a twelve- 
incher on the soft, smooth, silvery sand of the 
only bay in all the burn where such an exploit 



was possible, and dashing upon him like an 
osprey, soars up with him in his talons to the 
bank, breaking his line as he hurries off to a 
spot of safety twenty yards from the pool, and 
then flinging him down on a heath-surrounded 
plat of sheep-nibbled verdure, lets him bounce 
about till he is tired, and lies gasping with un- 
frequent and feeble motions, bright and beauti- 
ful, and glorious with all his yellow light and 
crimson lustre, spotted, speckled, and starred 
in his scaly splendour, beneath a sun that never 
shone before so dazzingly : but now the ra- 
diance of the captive creature is dimmer and 
obscured, for the eye of day winks and seems 
almost shut behind that slow-sailing mass of 
clouds, composed in equal parts of air, rain, 
and sunshine. 

Springs, summers, autumns, winters — each 
within itself longer, by many times longer than 
the whole year of grown-up life, that slips at 
last through one's fingers like a knotless thread 
— pass over the curled darling's brow ; and 
look at him now, a straight and strengthy strip- 
ling, in the savage spirit of sport, springing 
over rock-ledge after rock-ledge, nor heeding 
aught as he plashes knee-deep, or waistband- 
high, through river-feeding torrents, to the glo- 
rious music of his running and ringing reel, 
after a tongue-hooked salmon, insanely seeking 
with the ebb of tide, but all in vain, the white 
breakers of the sea. No hazel or willow wand, 
no half-crown rod of ash framed by village 
wright, is now in his practised hands, of which 
the very left is dexterous ; but a twenty-feet 
rod of Phin's, all ring-rustling, and a-glitter 
with the preserving varnish, limber as the at- 
tenuating line itself, and lithe to its topmost 
tenuity as the elephant's proboscis — the hiccory 
and the horn without twist, knot, or flaw — from 
butt to fly a faultless taper, "fine by degrees 
and beautifully less," the beau-ideal of a rod 
by the skill of cunning craftsman to the senses 
materialized! A fish — fat, fair, and forty ! "She 
is a salmon, therefore to be woo'd — she is a 
salmon, therefore to be won" — but shy, timid, 
capricious, headstrong, now wrathful and now 
fall of fear, like any other female whom the 
cruel artist has hooked by lip or heart, and, in 
spite of all her struggling, will bring to the 
gasp at last ; and then with calm eyes behold 
her lying in the shade dead or worse than dead, 
fast-fading, and to be re-illumined no more the 
lustre of her beauty, insensible to sun or 
shower, even the most perishable of all perish- 
able things in a world of perishing ! — But the 
salmon has grown sulky, and must be made to 
spring to the plunging-stone. There, suddenly, 
instinct with new passion, she shoots out of 
the foam like a bar of silver bullion ; and, re- 
lasping into the flood, is in another moment at 
the very head of the waterfall! Give her the 
butt — give her the butt — or she is gone for ever 
with the thunder into ten fathom deep! — Now 
comes the trial of your tackle — and when was 
Phin ever known to fail at the edge of cliff or 
cataract 1 Her snout is southwards — right up 
the middle of the main current of the hill-born 
river, as if she would seek its very course 
where she was spawned ! She still swims 
swift, and strong, and deep — and the line goes 
steady, boys, steady — stiff and steady as a Tory 



CHRISTOPHER IN HIS SPORTING JACKET. 



in the roar of Opposition. There is yet 
an hour's play in her dorsal fin — danger in 
the flap of her tail — and yet may her silver 
shoulder shatter the gut against a rock. 
Why the river was yesterday in spate, and she 
is fresh run from the sea. All the lesser 
waterfalls are now level with the flood, and 
she meets with no impediment or obstruction 
—the course is clear — no tree-roots here — no 
floating branches — for during the night they 
have all been swept down to the salt loch. 
In medio httissimas ibis — ay, now you feel she 
begins to fail — the butt tells now every time 
you deliver your right. What ! another mad 
leap ! yet another sullen plunge ! She seems 
absolutely to have discovered, or rather to be 
an impersonation of, the Perpetual Motion. 
Stand back out of the way, you son of a sea- 
cook ! — you in the tattered blue breeches, with 
the tail of your shirt hanging out. Who the 
devil sent you all here, ye vagabonds ? — Ha ! 
Watty Ritchie, my man, is that you? God 
bless your honest laughing phiz ! What Watty, 
would you think of a Fish like that about 
Peebles 1 Tam Grieve never gruppit sae heavy 
a ane since first he belanged to the Council. — 
Curse that colley ! Ay ! well done, Watty ! 
Stone him to Stobbo. Confound these stirks — 
if that white one, with caving horns, kicking 
heels, and straight-up tail, come bellowing by 
between us and the river, then, " Madam ! all 
is lost, except honour!" If we lose this Fish 
at six o'clock, then suicide at seven. Our will 
is made — ten thousand to the Foundling — ditto 

to the Thames Tunnel ha — ha — my Beauty! 

Methinks we could fain and fond kiss thy silver 
side, languidly lying afloat on the foam as if 
all further resistance now were vain, and grace- 
fully thou wert surrendering thyself to death ! 
No faith in female — she trusts to the last trial 
of her tail — sweetly workest thou, Reel of 
Reels ! and on thy smooth axle spinning 
sleep'st, even, as Milton describes her, like our 
own worthy planet. Scrope — Bainbridge — 
Maule — princes among Anglers — oh ! that you 
were here ! Where the devil is Sir Humphry 1 
At his retort 1 By mysterious sympathy — far 
off at his own Trows, the Kerss feels that we 
are killing the noblest fish whose back ever 
rippled the surface of deep or shallow in the 
Tweed. Tom Purdy stands like a seer, en- 
tranced in glorious vision, beside turreted Ab- 
botsford. Shade of Sandy Govan ! Alas ! alas ! 
Poor Sandy — why on thy pale face that melan- 
choly smile !— Peter ! The Gaff! The Gaff! 
Into the eddy she sails, sick and slow, and al- 
most with a swirl — whitening as she nears the 
sand — there she has it — struck right into the 
shoulder, fairer than that of Juno, Diana, Mi- 
nerva, or Venus — and lies at last in all her glo- 
rious length and breadth of beaming beauty, 
fit prey for giant or demigod angling before 
the Flood ! 

"The child is father of the man, 
And I would wish my days to be 
Bound each to each by natural piety !" 

So much for the Angler. The Shooter, 
again, he begins with his pipe-gun, formed of 
the last year's growth of a branch of the plane- 
tree — the beautiful dark-green-leaved and fra- 
grant-flowered plane-tree — that stands straight 



in stem and round in head, visible and audible 
too from afar the bee-resounding umbrage, 
alike on stormy sea-coast and in sheltered in- 
land vale, still loving the roof of the fisher- 
man's or peasant's cottage. 

Then comes, perhaps, the city pop-gun, in 
shape like a very musket, such as soldiers 
bear — a Christmas present from parent, once 
a colonel of volunteers — nor feeble to discharge 
the pea-bullet or barley-shot, formidable to face 
and eyes ; nor yet unfelt, at six paces, by hin- 
der-end of playmate, scornfully yet fearfully 
exposed. But the shooter soon tires of such 
ineffectual trigger — and his soul, as well as 
his hair, is set on fire by that extraordinary 
compound — Gunpowder. He begins with burn- 
ing off his eyebrows on the King's birthday ; 
squibs and crackers follow, and all the plea- 
sures of the pluff. But he soon longs to let 
off a gun — " and follow to the field some war- 
like lord" — in hopes of being allowed to dis- 
charge one of the double-barrels, after Ponto 
has made his last point, and the half-hidden 
chimneys of home are again seen smoking 
among the trees. This is his first practice in 
fire arms, and from that hour he is — a Shooter. 

Then there is in most rural parishes — and 
of rural parishes alone do we condescend to 
speak — a pistol, a horse one, with a bit of silver 
on the butt — perhaps one that originally served 
in the Scots Greys. It is bought, or borrowed, 
by the young shooter, who begins firing first 
at barn-doors, then at trees, and then at living 
things — a strange cur, who, from his lolling 
tongue maybe supposed to have the hydrophobia 
— a cat that has purred herself asleep on the 
sunny churchyard wall, or is watching mice at 
their hole-mouths among the graves — a water- 
rat in the mill-lead — or weasel that, running to 
his retreat in the wall, always turns round to look 
at you — a goose wandered from his common 
in disappointed love — or brown duck, easily 
mistaken by the unscrupulous for a wild one, 
in pond remote from human dwelling, or on 
meadow by the river side, away from the clack 
of the muter-mill. The corby-crow, too, shout- 
ed out of his nest on some tree lower 4 than 
usual, is a good flying mark to the more ad- 
vanced class : or morning magpie, a-chatter 
at skreigh of day close to the cottage door 
among the chickens ; or a flock of, pigeons 
wheeling overhead on the stubble field, or sit- 
ting so thick together, that every stock is blue 
with tempting plumage. 

But the pistol is discharged for a fowling 
piece — brown and rusty, with a slight crack 
probably in the muzzle, and a lock out of all 
proportion to the barrel. Then the young 
shooter aspires at halfpennies thrown up into 
the air— and generally hit, for there is never 
wanting an apparent dent in copper metal ; 
and thence he mounts to the glancing and 
skimming swallow, a household bird, and there- 
fore to be held sacred, but shot at on the excuse 
of its being next to impossible to hit him — an 
opinion strengthened into belief by several 
summers' practice. But the small brown and 
white marten wheeling through below the 
bridge, or along the many-holed red sand-bank, 
is admitted by all boys to be fair game— and 
still more, the longed-winged legless black 



8 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



devilet, that, ifit falls to the ground, cannot rise 
again, and therefore screams wheeling round 
the corners and battlements of towers and cas- 
tles, or far out even of cannon shot, gambles 
in companies of hundreds, and regiments of a 
thousand, aloft in the evening ether, within 
the orbit of the eagle's flight. It seems to boy- 
ish eyes, that the creatures near the earth, 
when but little blue sky is seen between the 
specks and the wallflowers growing on the 
coign of vantage — the signal is given to fire ; 
but the devilets are too high in heaven to smell 
the sulphur. The starling whips with a shrill 
cry into his nest, and nothing falls to the ground 
bnt a tiny bit of mossy mortar inhabited by a 
spider ! 

But the Day of Days arrives at last, when 
the school-boy, or rather the college boy* return- 
ing to his rural vacation, (for in Scotland 
college winters tread close, too close, on the 
heels of academies,) has a gun — a gun in a 
case — a double-barrel too — of his own — and is 
provided with a license, probably without any 
other qualification than that of hit or miss. On 
some portentous morning he effulges with the 
sun in velveteen jacket and breeches of the 
same — many-buttoned gaiters, and an unker-- 
chiefed throat. 'Tis the fourteenth of Septem- 
ber, and lo ! a pointer at his heels — Ponto, of 
course — a game-bag like a beggar's wallet at 
his side — destined to be at eve as full of charity 
— and all the paraphernalia of an accomplished 
sportsman. Proud, were she to see the sight, 
would be the "mother that bore him;" the 
heart of that old sportsman, his daddy, would 
sing for joy ! The chained mastiff in the yard 
yowls his admiration ; the servant lasses uplift 
the pane of their garret, and, with suddenly 
withdrawn blushes, titter their delight in their 
rich paper curls and pure night-clothes. Rab 
Roger, who has been cleaning out the barn, 
comes forth to partake of the caulker; and 
away go the footsteps of the old poacher 
and his pupil through the autumnal rime, off 
to the uplands, where — for it is one of the ear- 
liest of harvests — there is scarcely a single 
acre of standing corn. The turnip fields are 
bright green with hope and expectation — and 
coveys are couching on lazy beds beneath 
•the potato-shaw. Every high hedge, ditch- 
guarded on either side, shelters its own brood — 
imagination hears the whir shaking the dew- 
drops from the broom on the brae — and first 
one bird, and then another, and then the re- 
maining number, in itself no contemptible co- 
"vey, seems to fancy's ear to spring single, or in 
the clouds, from the coppice brushwood with 
here and there an intercepting standard tree. 

Poor Ponto is much to be-, pitied. Either 
having a cold in his nose, or having ante-break- 
fasted by stealth on a red herring, he can scent 
nothing short of a badger, and, every other field, 
he starts in horror, shame, and amazement, to 
hear himself, without having attended to his 
points, enclosed in a whirring covey. He is 
still duly taken between those inexorable 
knees; out comes the speck-and-span new 
dog-whip, heavy enough for a horse ; and the 
yowl of the patient is heard over the whole 
parish. Mothers press their yet unchastised 
^rfants to their breasts : and the schoolmaster. 



fastening a knowing eye on dunce and ne'er- 
do-weel, holds up, in silent warning, the terror 
of the taws. Frequent flogging will cowe the 
spirit of the best man and dog in Britain. 
Ponto travels now in fear and trembling but a 
few yards from his tyrant's feet, till, rousing 
himself to the sudden scent of something smell- 
ing strongly, he draws slowly and beautifully, 
and 

"There fix'd, a perfect semicirle stands." 
Up runs the Tyro ready-cocked, and, in his 
eagerness, stumbling among the stubble, when, 
hark and lo ! the gabble of grey goslings, and 
the bill-protruded hiss of goose and gander ! 
Bang goes the right-hand barrel at Ponto, who 
now thinks it high time to be off to the tune 
of "ower the hills and far awa','' while the 
young gentleman, half-ashamed and half-in- 
censed, half-glad and half-sorry, discharges the 
left-hand barrel, with a highly improper curse, 
at the father of the feathered family before him, 
who receives the shot like a ball in his breast, 
throws a somerset quite surprising for a bird 
of his usual habits, and after biting the dust 
with his bill, and thumping it with his bottom, 
breathes an eternal farewell to this sublunary 
scene — and leaves himself to be paid for at 
the rate of eighteenpence a pound to his justly 
irritated owner, on whose farm he had led a 
long and not only harmless, but honourable 
and useful life. 

It is nearly as impossible a thing as we 
know, to borrow a dog about the time the sun 
has reached his meridian, on the First Day of 
the Partridges. Ponto by this time has sneaked, 
unseen by human eye, into his kennel, and 
coiled himself up into the arms of " tired Na- 
ture's sweet restorer, balmy sleep." A farmer 
makes offer of a colley, who, from numbering 
among his paternal ancestors a Spanish pointer, 
is quite a Don in his way among the cheepers, 
and has been known in a turnip field to stand 
in an attitude very similar to that of setting. 
Luath has no objection to a frolic over the 
fields, and plays the part of Ponto to perfection. 
At last he catches sight of a covey basking, 
and, leaping in upon them open-mouthed, de- 
spatches them right and left, even like the fa- 
mous dog Billy killing rats in the pit at West- 
minster. The birds are bagged with a gentle 
remonstrance, and Luath's exploit rewarded 
with a whang of cheese. Elated by the pres- 
sure on his shoulder, the young gentleman 
laughs at the idea of pointing ; and fires away, 
like winking, at every uprise of birds", near or 
remote; works a miracle bybringing down three 
at a time, that chanced, unknown to him, to be 
crossing, and wearied with such slaughter, 
lends his gun to the attendant farmer, who can 
mark down to an inch, and walks up to the 
dropped pout as if he could kick her up with 
his foot ; and thus the bag in a few hours is 
half full of feathers ; while, to close with eclat 
the sport of the day, the cunning elder takes 
him to a bramble bush, in a wall nook, at the 
edge of the wood, and returning the gun into 
his hands, shows him poor pussy sitting with 
open eyes, fast asleep ! The pellets are in her 
brain, and turning herself over, she crunkles 
out to her full length, like a piece of untwisting 
Indian rubber, and is dead. The posterior 



CHRISTOPHER IN HIS SPORTING JACKET. 



pooch of ihc jacket, yet unstained by blood, 
yaxms to icceive her — and in she goes plump ; 
paws, ears, body, feet, fud, and all — while Luath, 
all the way home to the Mains, keeps snoking 
at the red drops oozing through ; for well he 
knows, in summer's heat and winter's cold, 
the smell of pussy, whether sitting beneath a 
tuft of withered grass on the brae, or burrowed 
beneath a snow wreath. A hare, we certainly 
must say, in spite of haughtier sportsman's 
scorn, is, when sitting, a most satisfactory shot. 

But let us trace no further thus, step by step, 
the Pilgrim's Progress. Look at him now — a 
finished sportsman — on the moors — the bright 
black boundless Dalwhinnie moors, stretching 
away, by long Loch Erricht side, into the dim 
and distant day that hangs, with all its clouds, 
over the bosom of far Loch Rannoch. Is that 
the pluffer at partridge-pouts who had nearly 
been the death of poor Ponto ? Lord Kennedy 
himself might take a lesson now from the 
straight and steady style in which on the moun- 
tain brow, and up to the middle in heather, he 
brings his Manton to the deadly level ! More un- 
erring eye never glanced along brown barrel ! 
Finer forefinger never touched a trigger ! Fol- 
low him a whole day, and not one wounded bird. 
All most beautifully arrested on their flight by 
instantaneous death ! Down dropped right 
and left, like lead on the heather — old cock and 
hen, singled out among the orphaned brood, as 
calmly as a cook would do it in the larder from 
among a pile of plumage. No random shot 
within — no needless shot out of distance — 
covered every feather before stir of finger — 
and body, back, and brain, pierced, broken, 
shattered ! And what perfect pointers ! There 
they stand, as still as death — yet instinct with 
life — the whole half dozen ! Mungo, the black- 
tanned — Don, the red-spotted — Clara, the snow- 
white — Primrose, the pale yellow — Basto, the 
bright brown, and Nimrod, in his coat of many 
colours, often seen afar through the mists like 
a meteor. 

So much for the Angler's and the Shooter's 
Progress — now briefly for the Hunter's. Hunt- 
ing, in this country, unquestionably commences 
with cats. Few cottages without a cat. If you 
do not find her on the mouse watch at the gable 
end of the house just at the corner, take a solar 
observation, and by it look for her on bank or 
brae — somewhere about the premises — if un- 
successful, peep into the byre, and up through 
a hole among the dusty divots of the roof, and 
chance is you see her eyes glittering far-ben 
in the gloom; but if she be not there either, 
into the barn and up on the mow, and surely 
she is on the straw or on the baulks below the 
kipples. No. Well, then, let your eye travel 
along the edge of that little wood behind the 
cottage — ay, yonder she is ! — but she sees both 
you and your two terriers — one rough and the 
other smooth — and, slinking away through a 
gap in the old hawthorn hedge in among the 
hazels, she either lies perdu, or is up a fir-tree 
almost as high as the magpie's or corby's nest. 

Now — observe — shooting cats is one thing — 
and hunting them is another — and shooting 
and hunting, though they may be united, are 
here treated separately ; so, in the present case, 
the cat makes her escape. But get her watch- 



ing birds — young larks, perhaps, walking on the 
lea — or young linnets hanging on the broom — 
down by yonder in the holm lands, where there 
are no trees, except indeed that one glorious sin- 
gle tree, the Golden Oak, and he is guarded by 
Glowrer, and then what a most capital chase ! 
Stretching herself up with crooked back, as 
if taking a yawn — off she jumps, with tremen- 
dous spangs, and tail, thickened with fear and 
anger, perpendicular. Youf — youf — youf — go 
the terriers — head over heels perhaps in their 
fury — and are not long in turning her — and 
bringing her to bay at the hedge-root, all 
ablaze and abristle. A she-devil incarnate ! — 
Hark — all at once now strikes up a trio — Ca- 
talani caterwauling the treble — Glowrer taking 
the bass — and Tearer the tenor — a cruel con- 
cert cut short by a squalling throttler. Away — 
away along the holm — and over the knowe — 
and into the wood — for lo ! the gudewife, bran- 
dishing a besom, comes flying demented with- 
out her mutch down to the murder of her tabby 
— her son, a stout stripling, is seen skirting the 
potato-field to intercept our flight — and, most 
formidable of all foes, the Man of the House 
himself, in his shirt-sleeves and flail in his 
hand, bolts from the barn, down the croft, 
across the burn, and up the brae, to cut us off 
from the Manse. The hunt's up — and 'tis a 
capital steeple chase. Disperse — disperse ! 
Down the hill, Jack — up the hill, Gill — dive 
the dell, Kit — thread the wood, Pat — a hun- 
dred yards' start is a great matter — a stern 
chase is always a long chase — schoolboys are 
generally in prime wind — the old man begins 
to puff and blow, and snort, and put his paws 
to his paunch — the son is thrown out by a 
double of dainty Davy's — and the "sair be- 
grutten mither" is gathering up the torn and 
tattered remains of Tortoise-shell Tabby, and 
invoking the vengeance of heaven and earth 
on her pitiless murderers. Some slight relief 
to her bursting and breaking heart to vow, that 
she will make the minister hear of it on the 
deafest side of his head — ay, even if she have 
to break in upon him sitting on Saturday night, 
getting aff by rote his fushionless sermon, in 
his ain study. 

Now, gentle reader, again observe, that 
though we have now described, con amore, a 
most cruel case of cat-killing, in which we 
certainly did play a most aggravated part, 
some Sixty Years since, far indeed are we 
from recommending such wanton barbarity 
to the rising generation. We are not inditing 
a homily on humanity to animals, nor have 
we been appointed to succeed the Rev. Dr. 
Somerville of Currie, the great Patentee of the 
Safety Double Bloody Barrel, to preach the 
annual Gibsonian sermon on that subject — 
we are simply stating certain matters of fact, 
illustrative of the rise and progress of the love 
of pastime in the soul, and leave our readers 
to draw the moral. But may we be permitted 
to say, that the naughtiest schoolboys often 
make the most pious men; that it does not 
follow according to the wise saws and modem 
instances of prophetic old women of both sexes, 
that he who in boyhood has worried a cat with 
terriers, will, in manhood, commit murder on 
one of his own species ; or that peccadilloes 



10 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



are the progenitors of capital crimes. Nature 
allows to growing lads a certain range of wick- 
edness, sans peur et sans reprochc. She seems, 
indeed, to whistle into their ear, to mock an- 
cient females — to laugh at Quakers — to make 
mouths at a descent man and his wife riding 
double to church — the matron's thick legs lu- 
dicrously bobbing from the pillion, kept firm 
on Dobbin's rump by her bottom, "pondcribus 
Ukrata suis," — to tip the wink to young women 
during sermon on Sunday — and on Saturday, 
most impertinently to kiss them, whether they 
will or no, on high-road or by-path — and to per- 
petrate many other little nameless enormities. 
No doubt, at the time, such things will wear 
rather a suspicious character ; and the boy who 
is detected in the fact, must be punished by 
pawmy, or privation, or imprisonment from 
play. But when punished, he is of course left 
free to resume his atrocious career; nor is it 
found that he sleeps a whit the less soundly, 
or shrieks for Heaven's mercy in his dreams. 
Conscience is not a craven. Groans belong 
to guilt. But fun and frolic, even when tres- 
passes, are not guilt ; and though a cat have 
nine lives, she has but one Ghost — and that 
will haunt no house where there are terriers. 
What ! surely if you have the happiness of 
being a parent you would not wish your only 
boy — 3^our son and heir — the blended image 
of his mother's loveliness and his father's 
manly beauty — to be a smug, smooth, prim, 
and proper prig, with his hair always combed 
down on his forehead, hands always unglaured, 
and without spot or blemish on his white-thread 
stockings 7 You would not wish him, surely, 
to be always moping and musing in a corner 
with a good book held close to his nose — bo- 
tanizing with his maiden aunts — doing the 
pretty at tea-tables with tabbies, in handing 
round the short-bread, taking cups, and attend- 
ing to the kettle — telling tales on all naughty 
boys and girls — laying up his penny a-week 
pocket-money in a penny pig — keeping all his 
clothes neatly folded up in an untumbled 
drawer — having his own peg for his uncrushed 
hat — saying his prayers precisely as the clock 
strikes nine, while his companions are yet at 
blind-man's buff — and puffed up every Sabbath- 
eve by the parson's praises of his uncommon 
memory for a sermon — while all the other boys 
are scolded for having fallen asleep before 
Tenthly? You would not wish him, surely, 
to write sermons himself at his tender years, 
nay — even to be able to give you chapter and 
verse for every quotation from the Bible 7 No. 
Better far that he should begin early to break 
your heart, by taking no care even of his Sun- 
day clothes — blotting his copy — impiously pin- 
ning pieces of paper to the Dominie's tail, who 
to him was a second father — going to the fish- 
ing not only without leave but against orders — 
bathing in the forbidden pool, where the tai- 
lor was drowned — drying powder before the 
school-room fire, and blowing himself and 
two crack-sculled cronies to the ceiling— tying 
kettles to the tails of dogs — shooting an old 
woman's laying hen — galloping bare-backed 
shelties down stony steeps — climbing trees to 
the slenderest twig on which bird could build, 
and up the tooth-of-time-intended sides of old 



castles after wall-flowers and starlings — being 
run away with in carts by colts against turn- 
pike gates — buying bad ballads from young 
gipsy-girls, who, on receiving a sixpence, give 
ever so many kisses in return, saying, "Take 
your change out of that;" — on a borrowed 
broken-knee'd pony, with a switch-tail — a de- 
vil for galloping — not only attending country- 
races for a saddle and collar, but entering for 
and winning the prize — dancing like a devil 
in barns at kirns — seeing his blooming partner 
home over the blooming heather, most perilous 
adventure of all in which virgin-puberty can 
be involved — fighting with a rival in corduroy 
breeches, and poll shorn beneath a caup, till 
his eyes just twinkle through the swollen blue 
— and, to conclude " this strange eventful his- 
tory," once brought home at one o'clock in the 
morning, God knows whence or by whom, and 
found by the shrieking servant, sent out to 
listen for him in the moonlight, dead-drunk on 
the gravel at the gate ! 

Nay, start not, parental reader — nor, in the 
terror of anticipation, send, without loss of a 
single day, for your son at a distant academy, 
mayhap pursuing even such another career. 
Trust thou to the genial, gracious, and benign 
vis medicatrix natures. What though a few clouds 
bedim and deform "the innocent brightness of 
the new-born day?" Lo! how splendid the 
meridian ether ! What though the frost seem 
to blight the beauty of the budding and blow- 
ing rose 7 Look how she revives beneath dew, 
rain, and sunshine, till your eyes can even 
scarce endure the lustre ! What though the 
waters of the sullen fen seem to pollute the 
snow of the swan 7 They fall off from her ex- 
panded wings, and, pure as a spirit, she soars 
away, and descends into her own silver lake, 
stainless as the water-lilies floating round her 
breast. And shall the immortal soul suffer 
lasting contamination from the transient 
chances of its nascent state — in this, less fa- 
voured than material and immaterial things 
that perish? No — it is undergoing endless 
transmigrations, — every hour a being differ- 
ent, yet the same — dark stains blotted out — 
rueful inscriptions effaced — many an erasure 
of impressions once thought permanent, but 
soon altogether forgotten — and vindicating, in 
the midst of the earthly corruption in which it 
is immersed, its own celestial origin, charac- 
ter, and end, often flickering, or seemingly 
blown out, like a taper in the wind, but all at 
once self-reillumined, and shining in inextin- 
guishable and self-fed radiance — like a star in 
heaven. 

Therefore, bad as boys too often are — and a 
disgrace to the mother who bore them — the 
cradle in which they Were rocked — the nurse 
by whom they were suckled — the schoolmas- 
ter by whom they were flogged — and the hang- 
man by whom it was prophesied they were tc 
be executed — wait patiently for a few years, 
and you will see them all transfigured — one 
into a preacher of such winning eloquence, 
that he almost persuades all men to be Chris- 
tians — another into a parliamentary orator, 
who commands the applause of listening sen- 
ates, and 

" Reads his history in a nation's eyes," 



CHRISTOPHER IN HIS SPORTING JACKET. 



11 



— one into a painter, before whose thunderous 
heavens the storms of Poussin " pale their inef- 
fectual fires" — another into a poet composing 
and playing, side b) r side, on his own peculiar 
harp, in a concert of vocal and instrumental 
music, with Byron, Scott, and Wordsworth — 
one into a great soldier, who, when Welling- 
ton is no more, shall, for the freedom of the 
world, conquer a future Waterloo — another 
who hoisted his flag on the " mast of some tall 
ammiral," shall, like Eliab Harvey in the Te- 
meraire, lay two three-deckers on board at 
once, and clothe some now nameless peak or 
promontory in immortal glory, like that shining 
on Trafalgar. 

Well, then, after cat-killing comes Coursing. 
Cats have a look of hares — kittens of leverets 
— and they are all called Pussy. The terriers 
are useful still, preceding the line like skirmish- 
ers, and with finest noses startling the mawkin 
from bracken-bush or rush bower, her sky- 
light garret in the old quarry, or her brown 
study in the brake. Away with your coursing 
on Marlborough downs, where huge hares are 
seen squatted from a distance, and the sleek 
dogs, disrobed of their gaudy trappings, are let 
slip by a Tryer, running for cups and collars 
before lords and ladies, and squires of high 
and low degree — a pretty pastime enough, no 
doubt, in its way, and a splendid cavalcade. 
But will it for a moment compare with the 
sudden and all-unlooked-for start of the "auld 
witch" from the bunweed-covered lea, when 
the throat of every pedestrian is privileged to 
cry " halloo — halloo — halloo" — and whipcord- 
tailed greyhound and hairy lurcher, without 
any invidious distinction of birth or bearing, 
lay their deep breasts to the sward at the same 
moment, to the same instinct, and brattle over 
the brae after the disappearing Ears, laid flat 
at the first sight of her pursuers, as with re- 
troverted eyes she turns her face to the moun- 
tain, and seeks the cairn only a little lower 
than the falcon's nest. 

What signifies any sport in the open air, 
except in congenial scenery of earth and 
heaven 1 Go, thou gentle Cockney ! and angle 
in the New River ; — but, bold Englishman, 
come with us and try a salmon-cast in the old 
Tay. Go, thou gentle Cockney ! and course a 
suburban hare in the purlieus of Blackheath ; 
— but, bold Englishman, come with us and 
course an animal that never heard a city-bell, 
by day a hare, by night an old woman, that 
loves the dogs she dreads, and, hunt her as 
you will with a leash and a half of lightfoots, 
still returns at dark to the same form in the 
turf-dike of the garden of the mountain cottage. 
The children, who love her as their own eyes 
■ — for she has been as a pet about the family, 
summer and winter, since that chubby-cheeked 
urchin, of some five years old, first began to 
swing in his self-rocking cradle — will scarcely 
care to see her started — nay, one or two of the 
wickedest among them will join in the halloo ; 
for often, ere this, " has she cheated the very 
jowlers, and lauched ower her shouther at the 
lang dowgs walloping ahint her, sair forfa- 
quhen, up the benty brae — and it's no the day 
that she's gaun to be killed by Rough Robin, 
or smooth Spring, or the red Bick, or the hairy 



Lurcher — though a' fowr be let lowse on her 
at ance, and ye surround her or she rise." 
What are your great, big, fat, lazy English 
hares, ten or twelve pounds and upwards, who 
have the food brought to their veiy mouth in 
preserves, and are out of breath with five 
minutes' scamper among themselves — to the 
middle-sized, hard-hipped, wiry-backed, steel- 
legged, long-winded mawkins of Scotland, that 
scorn to taste a leaf of a single cabbage in the 
wee moorland yardie that shelters them, but 
prey in distant fields, take a breathing every 
gloaming along the mountain-breast, untired 
as young eagles ringing the sky for pastime, 
and before the dogs seem not so much scour- 
ing for life as for pleasure, with such an air 
of freedom, liberty, and independence, do they 
fling up the moss and cock their fuds in the 
faces of their pursuers. Yet stanch are they 
to the spine — strong in bone, and sound in 
bottom — see, see how Tickler clears that 
twenty-feet moss-hag at a single spang like a 
bird — tops that hedge that would turn any 
hunter that ever stabled in Melton Mowbray — 
and then, at full speed northward, moves as 
upon a pivot within his own length, and close 
upon his haunches, without losing a foot, off 
within a point of due south. A kennel! He 
never was and never will be in a kennel all 
his free joyful days. He has walked and run 
— and leaped and swam about — at his own 
will, ever since he was nine days old — and he 
would have done so sooner had he had any 
eyes. None of your stinking cracklets for 
him — he takes his meals with the family, sit- 
ting at the right hand of the master's eldest 
son. He sleeps in any bed of the house he 
chooses; and, though no Methodist, he goes 
every third Sunday to church. That is the 
education of a Scottish greyhound — and the 
consequence is, that you may pardonably mis- 
take him for a deer dog from Badenoch or 
Lochaber, and no doubt in the world that he 
would rejoice in a glimpse of the antlers on 
the weather gleam, 

" Where the hunter of deer and the warrior trode . 
To his hills that encircle the sea." 

This may be called roughing it — slovenly — 
coarse — rude — artless — unscientific. But we 
say no — it is your only coursing. Gods ! with 
what a bounding bosom the schoolboy salutes 
the dawning of the cool — clear — crisp, yes, 
crisp October morn, (for there has been a 
slight frost, and the almost leafless hedgerows 
are all glittering with rime ;) and, little time 
lost at dress or breakfast, crams the luncheon 
into his pouch, and away to the Trysting-hill 
Farmhouse, which he fears the gamekeeper 
and his grews will have left ere he can run 
across the two long Scotch miles of moor be- 
tween him and his joy ! With steps elastic, 
he feels flying along the sward as from a 
spring-board ; like a roe, he clears the burns 
and bursts his way through the brakes ; pant- 
ing, not from breathlessness but anxiety, he 
lightly leaps the garden fence without a pole, 
and lo, the green jacket of one huntsman, the 
red jacket of another, on the plat before the 
door, and two or three tall rawboned poachers 
— and there is mirth and music, fun and frolic, 
and the very soul of enterprise, adventure, and 



12 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



desperation, in that word — while tall and 
graceful stand the black, the brindled, and the 
yellow breed, with keen yet quiet eyes, pro- 
phetic of their destined prey, and though mo- 
tionless now as stone statues of hounds at the 
feet of Meleager, soon to launch like lightning 
at the loved halloo ! 

Out comes the gudewife with her own bottle 
from the press in the spence, with as big a 
belly and broad a bottom as her own, and they 
are no trifle — for the worthy woman has been 
making much beef for many years, is more- 
over in the family way, and surely this time 
there will be twins at least — and pours out a 
canty caulker for each crowing crony, begin- 
ning with the gentle, and ending with the 
semple, that is our and herself; and better 
speerit never steamed in sma' still. She offers 
another with " hinny," by way of Athole brose ; 
but it is put off till evening, for coursing re- 
quires a clear head, and the same sobriety 
then adorned our youth that now dignifies our 
old age. The gudeman, although an elder of 
the kirk, and with as grave an aspect as suits 
that solemn office, needs not much persuasion 
to let the flail rest for one day, anxious though 
he be to show the first aits in the market ; and 
donning his broad blue bonnet, and the short- 
est-tailed auld coat he can find, and taking his 
kent in his hand, he gruffly gives Wully his 
orders for a' things about the place, and sets 
off with the yonkers for a holyday. Not a man 
on earth who has not his own pastime, depend 
on't, austere as he may look ; and 'twould be 
well for this wicked world if no elder in it had 
a "sin that maist easily beset him," worse 
than what Gibby Watson's wife used to call 
his " awfu' fondness for the Grews !" 

And who that loves to walk or wander over 
the green earth, except indeed it merely be 
some sonnetteer or ballad-monger, if he had 
rime and could afford it, and lived in a toler- 
ably open country, would not keep, at the very 
least, three greyhounds? No better eating 
than a hare, though old blockhead Burton — 
and he was a blockhead, if blockhead ever 
there was one in this world — in his Anatomy, 
chooses to call it melancholy meat. Did he 
ever, by way of giving dinner a fair commence- 
ment, swallow a tureen of hare-soup with half 
a peck of mealy potatoes 1 If ever he did — 
and notwithstanding called hare melancholy 
meat, there can be no occasion whatever for 
now wishing him any further punishment. If 
he never did — then he was on earth the most 
unfortunate of men. England — as you love 
us and yourself — cultivate hare-soup, without 
for a moment dreaming of giving up roasted 
hare well stuffed with stuffing, jelly sauce being 
handed round on a large trencher. But there 
is no such thing as melancholy meat — neither 
fish, flesh, nor fowl — provided only there be 
enough of it. Otherwise, the daintiest dish 
drives you to despair. But independently of 
spit, pot, and pan, what delight in even dauner- 
ing about the home farm seeking for a hare 1 
It is quite an art or science. You must con- 
sult not only the wind and weather of to-day, 
but of the night before — and of every day and 
night back to last Sunday, when probably you 
were prevented by the rain from going to 



church. Then hares shift the sites of their 
country seats every season. This month they 
love the fallow field — that, the stubble; this, 
you will see them, almost without looking for 
them, big and brown on the bare stony upland 
lea — that, you must have a hawk's eye in your 
head to discern, discover, detect them, like 
birds in their nests, embowered below the 
bun weed or the bracken ; they choose to spend 
this week in a wood impervious to wet or wind 
— that, in a marsh too plashy for the plover; 
now you may depend on finding madam at 
home in the sulks within the very heart of a 
bramble-bush or dwarf black-thorn thicket, 
while the squire cocks his fud at you from the 
top of a knowe open to blasts from all the 
airts ; — in short, he who knows at all times 
where to find a hare, even if he knew not one 
single thing else but the way to his mouth, 
cannot be called an ignorant man — is probably 
a better-informed man in the long run than the 
friend on his right, discoursing about the 
Turks, the Greeks, the Portugals, and all that 
sort of thing, giving himself the lie on every 
arrival of his daily paper. We never yet 
knew an old courser, (him of the Sporting 
Annals included,) who was not a man both of 
abilities and virtues. But where were we 1 — 
at the Trysting-hill Farmhouse, jocularly 
called Hunger-them-Out. 

Line is formed, and with measured steps we 
march towards the hills — for we ourselves are 
the schoolboy, bold, bright, and blooming as 
the rose — fleet of foot almost as the very ante- 
lope — Oh ! now, alas ! dim and withered as a 
stalk from which winter has swept all the 
blossoms — slow as the sloth along the ground 
— spindle-shanked as a lean and slippered 
pantaloon ! 

" O heaven ! that from our bright and shining years 
Age would but take the things youth needed not!" 

An old shepherd meets us on the long sloping 
rushy ascent to the hills — and putting his 
brown withered finger to his gnostic nose, in- 
timates that she is in her old form behind the 
dike — and the noble dumb animals, with 
pricked-up ears and brandished tail, are aware 
that her hour is come. Plash, plash, through 
the marsh, and then on the dry furze beyond, 
you see her large dark-brown eyes — Soho, 
soho, soho — Holloo, halloo, halloo — for a mo- 
ment the seemingly horned creature appears to 
dally with the danger, and to linger ere she 
lays her lugs on her shoulder, and away, like 
thoughts pursuing thoughts — away fly hare 
and hounds towards the mountain. 

Stand all still for a minute — for not a bush 
the height of our knee to break our view — and 
is not that brattling burst up the brae "beauti- 
ful exceedingly," and sufficient to chain in ad- 
miration the beatings of the rudest gazer's 
heart? Yes; of all beautiful sights — none 
more, none so much so, as the miraculous 
motion of a four-footed wild animal, changed 
at once, from a seeming inert sod or stone, into 
flight fleet as that of the falcon's wing ! In- 
stinct against instinct! fear and ferocity in 
one flight! Pursuers and pursued bound 
together, in every turning and twisting of their 
career, by the operation of two headlong pas- 
sions ! Now they are all three upon her — and 



CHRISTOPHER IN HIS SPORTING JACKET. 



13 



she dies ! No ! glancing aside, like a bullet 
from a wall, she bounds almost at a right angle 
from her straight course — and, for a moment, 
seems to have made good her escape. Shooting 
headlong one over the other, all three, with 
erected tails, suddenly bring themselves up — 
like racing barks when down goes the helm, 
and one 'after another, bowsprit and boom 
almost entangled, rounds the buoy, and again 
bears up on the starboard tack upon a wind — 
and in a close line, head to heel, so that you 
might cover them all with a sheet — again, all 
open-mouthed on her haunches, seem to drive, 
and go with her over the cliff. 

We are all on foot — and pray what horse 
could gallop through among all these quag- 
mires, over all the hags in these peat-mosses, 
overall the water-cressy and puddocky ditches, 
sinking soft on hither and thither side, even to 
the two-legged leaper's ankle or knee — up that 
hill on the perpendicular strewn with flint- 
shivers — down these loose-hanging cliffs — 
through that brake of old stunted birches with 
stools hard as iron — over that mile of quaking 
muir where the plover breeds — and — finally — 
up — up — up to where the dwarfed heather dies 
away among the cinders, and in winter you 
might mistake a flock of ptarmigan for a patch 
of snow 1 

The thing is impossible — so we are all on 
foot — and the fleetest keeper that ever footed 
it in Scotland shall not in a run of three miles 
give us sixty yards. " Ha ! Peter the wild 
boy, how are you off for wind ?" — we exult- 
ingly exclaim, in giving Red-jacket the go-by 
on the bent. But see — see — they are bringing 
her back again down the Red Mount — glancing 
aside, she throws them all three out — yes, all 
three, and few enow too, though fair play be a 
jewel — and ere they can recover, she is a-head 
a hundred yards up the hill. There is a beauti- 
ful trial of bone and bottom ! Now one, and 
then another, takes almost imperceptibly the 
lead; but she steals away from them inch by 
inch — beating them all blind — and, suddenly 
disappearing — Heaven knows how — leaves 
them all in the lurch. With out-lolling tongues, 
hanging heads, panting sides, and drooping 
tails, they come one by one down the steep, 
looking somewhat sheepish, and then lie down 
together on their sides, as if indeed about to 
die in defeat. She has carried away her cocked 
fud unscathed for the third time, from Three 
of the Best in all broad Scotland — nor can 
there any longer be the smallest doubt in the 
world, in the minds of the most skeptical, that 
she is— what all the country-side have long 
known her to be — a Witch. 

From cat-killing to Coursing, we have seen 
that the transition is easy in the order of na- 
ture — and so it is from coursing to Fox-Hunt- 
ing — by means, however, of a small interme- 
diate step — the Harriers. Musical is a pack 
of harriers as a peal of bells. How melo- 
diously they ring changes in the woods, and 
in the hollow of the mountains ! A level 
country we have already consigned to merited 
contempt, (though there is no rule without an 
exception; and as we shall see by and by, 
there is one too here,) and commend us, even 
with harriers, to the ups and downs of the pas- 



toral or silvan heights. If old or indolent, take 
your station on a heaven-kissing hill, and hug 
the echoes to your heart. Or, if you will ride, 
then let it be on a nimble galloway of some four- 
teen hands, that can gallop a good pace on the 
road, and keep sure footing on bridle paths, or 
upon the pathless braes — and by judicious 
horsemanship, you may meet the pack at many 
a loud-mouthed burst, and haply be not far out 
at the death. But the schoolboy and the shep- 
herd — and the whipper-in — as each hopes for 
favour from his own Diana — let them all be on 
foot — and have studied the country for every 
imaginable variety that can occur in the winter's 
campaign. One often hears of a cunning old 
fox — but the cunningest old fox is a simpleton 
to the most guileless young hare. What deceit 
in every double ! What calculation in every 
squat ! Of what far more complicated than 
Cretan Labyrinth is the creature, now hunted 
for the first time, sitting in the centre ! a listen- 
ing the baffled roar ! Now into the pool she 
plunges, to free herself from the fatal scent 
that lures on death. Now down the torrent 
course she runs and leaps, to cleanse it from 
her poor paws, fur-protected from the sharp 
flints that lame the fiends that so sorely beset 
her, till many limp along in their own blood. 
Now along the coping of stone walls she crawls 
and scrambles — and now ventures from the 
wood along the frequented high-road, heedless 
of danger from the front, so that she may escape 
the horrid growling in the rear. Now into the 
pretty little garden of the wayside, or even the 
village cot, she creeps, as if to implore protec- 
tion from the innocent children, or the nursing 
mother. Yes, she will even seek refuge in the 
sanctuary of the cradle. The terrier drags her 
out from below a tombstone, and she dies in 
the churchyard. The hunters come reeking 
and reeling on, we ourselves among the num- 
ber — and to the winding horn thai echoes reply 
from the walls of the house of worship — and 
now, in momentary contrition, 

"Drops a sad, serious tear upon our playful pen !' 

and we bethink ourselves — alas ! all in vain 
for 

"Naturam expellas furcd, tamen usque recurret" — 

of these solemn lines of the poet of peace and 
humanity : — 

"One lesson reader, let us two divide, 
Taught by what nature shows and what conceals, 
Never to blend our pleasure and our pride 
With sorrow of the meanest thing that feels." 

It is next to impossible to reduce fine poetry 
to practice — so let us conclude with a pane- 
gyric on Fox-Hunting. The passion for this 
pastime is the very strongest that can possess 
the heart — nor, of all the heroes of antiquity, 
is there one to our imagination more poetical 
than Nimrod. His whole character is given, and 
his whole history, in two words — Mighty Hun- 
ter. That he hunted the fox is not probable ; 
for the sole aim and end of his existence was 
not to exterminate — that would have been cut- 
ting his own throat — but to thin man-devour- 
ing wild beasts — the Pards — with Leo at their 
head. But in a land like this, where not even 
a wolf has existed for centuries— nor a wild 
boar — the same spirit that would have driven 
the British youth on the tusk and paw of the 
B 



14 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



Lion and the Tiger, mounts them in scarlet on 
such steeds as never neighed before the flood, 
nor " summered high in bliss" on the sloping 
pastures of undeluged Ararat — and gathers 
them together in gallant array on the edge of 
the cover, 

"When first the hunter's startling horn is heard 
Upon the golden hills." 

What a squadron of cavalry ! What fiery eyes 
and flaming nostrils — betokening with what 
ardent passion the noble animals will revel in 
the chase ! Bay, brown, black, dun, chestnut 
sorrel, gray — of all shades and hues — and 
every courser distinguished by his own peculiar 
character of shape and form — yet all blending 
harmoniously as they crown the mount; so 
that a painter would only have to group and 
colour them as they stand, nor lose, if able to 
catch them, one of the dazzling lights or deep- 
ening shadows streamed on them from that 
sunny, yet not unstormy sky. 

You read in books of travels and romances, 
of Barbs and Arabs galloping in the desert — 
and well doth Sir Walter speak of Saladin at 
the head of his Saracenic chivalry ; but take 
our word for it, great part of all such descrip- 
tions are mere falsehood or fudge. Why in the 
devil's name should dwellers in the desert 
always be going at full speed ] And how can 
that full speed be any thing more than a slow 
heavy hand-gallop at the best, the barbs being 
up to the belly at every stroke? They are 
always, it is said, in high condition — but we, 
who know something about horse-flesh, give 
that assertion the lie. They have seldom any 
thing either to eat or drink; they are as lean 
as church mice ; and covered with clammy 
sweat before they have ambled a league from 
tne tent. And then such a set of absurd riders, 
with knees up to their noses, like so many 
tailors riding to Brentford, via the deserts of 
Arabia! Such bits, such bridles, and such 
saddles ! But the whole set-out, rider and rid- 
den, accoutrements and all, is too much for 
one's gravity, and must occasion a frequent 
laugh to the wild ass as he goes braying un- 
harnessed by. But look there ! Arabian 
blood, and British bone ! Not bred in and in, 
to the death of all the fine strong animal spirits 
— but blood intermingled and interfused by 
twenty crosses, nature exulting in each succes- 
sive produce, till her power can no further go, 
and in yonder glorious grey, 

" Gives the world assurance of a horse !" 
Form the Three Hundred into squadron, or 
squadrons, and in the hand of each rider a 
sabre alone, none of your lances, all bare his 
breast but for the silver-laced blue, the gorge- 
ous uniform of the Hussars of England — con- 
found all cuirasses and cuirassiers ! — let the 
trumpet sound a charge, and ten thousand of 
the proudest of the Barbaric chivalry be op- 
posed with spear and scimitar — and through 
their snow-ranks will the Three Hundred go 
like thaw — splitting them into dissolution with 
the noise of thunder. 

The proof of the pudding is in the eating of 
t ; and where, we ask, were the British cavalry 
ever overthrown 1 And how could the great 
north-country horse-coupers perform their con- 



tracts, but for the triumphs of the Turf] Blood 
— blood there must be, either for strength, or 
speed, or endurance. The very heaviest ca- 
valry — the Life Guards and the Scots Greys, 
and all other dragoons, must have blood. But 
without racing and fox-hunting, where could 
it be found? Such pastimes nerve one of the 
arms of the nation when in battle ; but for them 
'twould be palsied. What better education, 
too, not only for a horse, but his rider, before 
playing a bloodier game in his first war cam- 
paign ] Thus he becomes demicorpsed with 
the noble animal ; and what easy, equable 
motion to him is afterwards a charge over a 
wide level plain, with nothing in the way but 
a few regiments of flying Frenchmen ! The 
hills and dales of merry England have been 
the best riding-school to her gentlemen — her 
gentlemen who have not lived at home at ease 
— but, with Paget, and Stewart, and Seymour, 
and Cotton, and Somerset, and Vivian, have 
left their hereditary halls, and all the peaceful 
pastimes pursued among the silvan scenery, 
to try the mettle of their steeds, and cross 
swords with the vaunted Gallic chivalry; and 
still have they been in the shock victorious ; 
witness the skirmish that astonished Napoleon 
at Saldanha — the overthrow that uncrowned 
him at Waterloo ! 

"Well, do you know, that, after all you 
have said, Mr. North, I cannot understand the 
passion and the pleasure of fox-hunting. It 
seems to me both cruel and dangerous." 

Cruelty ! Is their cruelty in laying the rein 
on their necks, and delivering them up to the 
transport of their high condition — for every 
throbbing vein is visible — at the first full burst 
of that maddening cry, and letting loose to their 
delight the living thunderbolts'? Danger! 
What danger but of breaking their own legs, 
necks, or backs, and those of their riders 1 
And what right have you to complain of that, 
lying all your length, a huge hulking fellow, 
snoring and snorting half-asleep on a sofa, 
sufficient to sicken a whole street] What 
though it be but a smallish, reddish-brown, 
sharp-nosed animal, with pricked-up ears, and 
passionately fond of poultry, that they pursue ] 
After the first Tally-ho, Reynard is rarely seen, 
till he is run in upon — once, perhaps, in the 
whole run, skirting a wood, or crossing a com- 
mon. It is an Idea that is pursued, on a whirl- 
wind of horses, to a storm of canine music — 
worthy, both, of the largest lion that ever leaped 
among a band of Moors, sleeping at midnight 
by an extinguished fire on the African sands. 
There is, we verily believe it, nothing Foxy in 
the Fancy of one man in all that glorious field 
of Three Hundred. Once ofFand away — while 
wood and welkin rings — and nothing is felt — 
nothing is imaged in that hurricane flight, 
but scorn of all obstructions, dikes, ditches, 
drains, brooks, palings, canals, rivers, and all 
the impediments reared in the way of so many 
rejoicing madmen, by nature, art, and science, 
in an inclosed, cultivated, civilized, and Chris- 
tian country. There they go — prince and peer, 
baronet and squire — the nobility and gentry of 
England, the flower of the men of the earth, 
each on such a steed as Pollux never reined, 
nor Philip's warlike son — for could we imagine 



CHRISTOPHER IN HIS SPORTING JACKET. 



15 



Bucephalus here, ridden by his own tamer, 
Alexander would be thrown out during the 
very first burst, and glad to find his way dis- 
mounted to a village alehouse for a pail of 
meal and water. Hedges, trees, groves, gar- 
dens, orchards, woods, farmhouses, huts, halls, 
mansions, palaces, spires, steeples, towers, and 
temples, all go wavering by, each demigod 
seeing, or seeing them not, as his winged steed 
skims or labours along, to the swelling or 
sinking music, now loud as a near regimental 
band, now faint as an echo. Far and wide 
over the country are dispersed the scarlet run- 
ners — and a hundred villages pour forth their 
admiring swarms, as the main current of the 
chase roars by, or disparted runlets float wea- 
ried and all astray, lost at last in the perplexing 
woods. Crash goes the top-timber of the five- 
barred gate — away over the ears flies the ex- 
rough-rider in a surprising somerset — after a 
succession of stumbles, down is the gallant 
Grey on knees and nose, making sad work 
among the fallow — Friendship is a fine thing, 
and the story of Damon and Pythias most 
affecting indeed — but Pylades eyes Orestes on 
his back sorely drowned in sludge, and tenderly 
leaping over him as he lies, claps his hands 
to his ear, and with a " hark forward, tantivy !" 
leaves him to remount, lame and at leisure — 
and ere the fallen has risen and shaken him- 
self, is round the corner of the white village- 
church, down the dell, over the brook and 
close on the heels of the straining pack, all a- 
yell up the hill crowned by the Squire's Folly. 
" Every man for himself, and God for us all," 
is the devout and ruling apothegm of the day. 
If death befall, what wonder 1 since man and 
horse are mortal ; but death loves better a wide 
soft bed with quiet curtains and darkened win- 
dows in a still room, the clergyman in one 
corner with his prayers, and the physician in 
another with his pills, making assurance 
doubly sure, and preventing all possibility of 
the dying Christian's escape. Let oak branch 
smite the too slowly stooping skull, or rider's 
back not timely levelled with his steed's ; let 
faithless bank give way, and bury in the brook ; 
let hidden drain yield to fore feet and work a 
sudden wreck ; let -old coal-pit, with briery 
mouth, betray ; and roaring river bear down 
man and horse, to cliffs unscalable by the very 
Welch goat ; let duke's or earl's son go sheer 
over a quarry twenty feet deep, and as many 
high ; yet " Without stop or stay, down the 
rocky way," the hunter train flows on ; for the 
music grows fiercer and more savage — lo ! all 
that remains together of the pack, in far more 
dreadful madness than hydrophobia, leaping 
out of their skins, under insanity from the 
scent, for Vulpes can hardly now make a 
crawl of it; and ere he, they, whipper-in, or 
any one of the other three demoniacs, have 
time to look in one another's splashed faces, 
he is torn into a thousand pieces, gobbled up 
n the general growl ; and smug, and smooth, 
and dry, and warm, and cozey, as he was an 
hour and twenty-five minutes ago exactly, in 
his furze bush in the cover — he is now piece- 
meal in about thirty distinct stomachs ; and is 
he not, pray, well off for sepulture ] 



FYTTE SECOND. 

We are always unwilling to speak of our- 
selves, lest we should appear egotistical — for 
egotism we detest. Yet the sporting world 
must naturally be anxious to know something 
of our early history — and their anxiety shall 
therefore be now assuaged. The truth is, that 
we enjoyed some rare advantages and oppor- 
tunities in our boyhood regarding field sports, 
and grew up, even from that first great era in 
every Lowlander's life, Breeching-day, not only 
a fisher but a fowler ; and it is necessary that 
we enter into some interesting details. 

There had been from time immemorial, it 
was understood, in the Manse, a duck-gun of 
very great length, and a musket that, according 
to an old tradition, had been out both in the 
Seventeen and Forty-five. There were ten 
boys of us, and we succeeded by rotation to 
gun or musket, each boy retaining possession 
for a single day only; but then the shooting 
season continued all the year. They must 
have been of admirable materials and work- 
manship; for neither of them so much as once 
burst during the Seven Years' War. The mus- 
ket, who, we have often since thought, must 
surely rather have been a blunderbuss in dis- 
guise, was a perfect devil for kicking when 
she received her discharge ; so much so indeed, 
that it was reckoned creditable for the smaller 
boys not to be knocked down by the recoil. 
She had a very wide mouth — and was thought 
by us " an awfu' scatterer ;" a qualification 
which we considered of the very highest merit. 
She carried any thing we choose to put into 
her — there still being of all her performances 
a loud and favourable report — balls, buttons, 
chucky-stanes, slugs, or hail. She had but 
two faults — she had got addicted, probably in 
early life, to one habit of burning priming, and 
to another of hanging fire; habits of which it 
was impossible, for us at least, to break her by 
the most assiduous hammering of many anew 
series of flints; but such was the high place 
she justly occupied in the affection and admira 
tion of us all, that faults like these did not in th« 
least detract from her general character. Our 
delight, when she did absolutely and positively 
and bond fide go off, was in proportion to the 
comparative rarity of that occurrence ; and as 
to hanging fire — why we used to let her take 
her own time, contriving to keep her at the 
level as long as our strength sufficed, eyes shut 
perhaps, teeth clenched, face girning, and head 
slightly averted over the right shoulder, till 
Muckle-mou'd Meg, who, like most other Scot- 
tish females, took things leisurely, went off at 
last with an explosion like the blowing up of 
a rock. 

The " Lang gun," again, was of much gen- 
tler disposition, and, instead of kicking, ran 
into the opposite extreme on being let off, in- 
clining forwards as if she would follow the 
shot. We believe, however, this apparent 
peculiarity arose from her extreme length, 
which rendered it difficult for us to hold her 
horizontally — and hence the muzzle being at- 
tracted earthward, the entire gun appeared to 
leave the shoulder of the Shooter. That such 



16 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



is the true theory of the phenomenon seems to 
be proved by this — that when the " Lang Gun" 
was, in the act of firing, laid across the shoul- 
ders of two boys standing about a yard the one 
before the other, she kicked every bit as well 
as the blunderbuss. Her lock was of a very 
peculiarconstruction. It was so contrived that, 
when on full cock, the dog-head, as we used to 
call it, stood back at least seven inches, and 
unless the flint was put in to a nicety, by pull- 
ing the trigger you by no means caused any 
uncovering of the pan, but things in general 
remained in statu quo — and there was perfect 
silence. She had a worm-eaten stock into 
which the barrel seldom was able to get itself 
fairly inserted ; and even with the aid of cir- 
cumvoluting twine, 'twas always coggly. Thus, 
too, the vizy (Jlnglice sight) generally inclined 
unduly to one side or the other, and was the 
cause of all of us every day hitting and hurting 
objects of whose existence even we were not 
aware, till alarmed by the lowing or the gal- 
loping of cattle on the hills ; and we hear now 
the yell of an old woman in black bonnet and 
red cloak, who shook her staff at us like a witch, 
with the blood running down the furrows of her 
face, and with many oaths maintained that she 
was murdered. The " Lang Gun" had cer- 
tainly a strong vomit — and, with slugs or 
swan-shot, was dangerous at two hundred 
yards to any living thing. Bob Howie, at 
that distance arrested the career of a mad dog 
— a single slug having been sent through the 
eye into the brain. We wonder if one or both 
of those companions of our boyhood be yet 
alive — or, like many other great guns that 
have since made more noise in the world, 
fallen a silent prey to the rust of oblivion. 

Not a boy in the school had a game certifi- 
cate — or, as it was called in the parish — "a 
leeshance." Nor, for a year or two, was such 
a permit necessary ; as we confined ourselves 
almost exclusively to sparrows. Not that we 
had any personal animosity to the sparrow in- 
dividually — on the contrary, we loved him, 
and had a tame one — a fellow of infinite fancy 
— with comb and wattles of crimson cloth like 
a gamecock. But trusir numbers, without 
number numberless, seemed to justify the hu- 
manest of boys in killing any quantity of 
sprauchs. Why, they would sometimes settle 
on the clipped half-thorn and half-beech hedge 
of the Manse garden in myriads, midge-like ; 
and then out any two of us, whose day it hap- 
pened to be, used to sally with Muckle-mou'd 
Meg and the Lang Gun, charged two hands and 
a finger ; and with a loud shout, startling them 
from their roost like the sudden casting of a 
swarm of bees, we let drive into the whir — a 
shower of feathers was instantly seen swim- 
ming in the air, and flower-bed and onion bed 
covered with scores of the mortally wounded 
old cocks with black heads, old hens with 
brown, and the pride of the eaves laid low be- 
fore their first crop of peas ! Never was there 
such a parish for sparrows. You had but to 
fling a stone into any stack-yard, and up rose 
a sprauch-shower. The thatch of every cottage 
was drilled by them like honey-combs. House- 
spouts were of no rise in rainy weather — for 
tijey were all choked up by sprauch-nests. At 



each particular barn-door, when the farmers 
were at work, you might have thought you saw 
the entire sparrow population of the parish 
Seldom a Sabbath, during pairing, building, 
breeding, nursing, and training season, could 
you hear a single syllable of the sermon foi 
their sakes, all a-huddle and a-chirp in the bel 
fry and among the old loose slates. On every 
stercoraceous deposit on coach, cart, or bridle 
road, they were busy on grain and pulse ; and, 
in spite of cur and cat, legions embrowned 
every cottage garden. Emigration itself in 
many million families would have left no per- 
ceptible void ; and the inexterminable multi- 
tude would have laughed at the Plague. 

The other small birds of the parish began to 
feel their security from our shot, and sung their 
best, unscared on hedge, bush, and tree. Per- 
haps, too, for sake of their own sweet strains, 
we spared the lyrists of Scotland, the linnet 
and the lark, the one in the yellow broom, the 
other beneath the rosy cloud — while there was 
ever a sevenfold red shield before Robin's 
breast, whether flitting silent as a falling leaf, 
or trilling his autumnal lay on the rigging or 
pointed gable-end of barn or brye. Now and 
then the large bunting, conspicuous on a top- 
twig, and proud of his rustic psalmody, tempted 
his own doom — or the cunning stone-chat, 
glancing about the old dikes usually shot at 
in vain — or yellow-hammer, under the ban of 
the national superstition, with a drop of the 
devil's blood beneath his pretty crest, pretty in 
spite of that cruel creed — or green-finch, too 
rich in plumage for his poorer song — or shilfa, 
the beautiful nest-builder, shivering his white- 
plumed wings in shade and sunshine, in joy 
the most rapturous, in grief the most despairing 
of all the creatures of the air— or redpole, ba- 
lanced on the down of the thistle or flower of 
the bunweed on the old clovery lea — or, haply 
twice seen in a season, the very goldfinch 
himself, a radiant and gorgeous spirit brought 
on the breeze from afar, and worthy, if only 
slightly wounded, of being enclosed within a 
silver cage from Fairy Land. 

But we waxed more ambitious as we grew 
old — and then wo to the rookery on the elm- 
tree grove ! Down droptihe dark denizens in 
dozens, rebounding with a thud and a skraigh 
from the velvet moss, which under that um- 
brage formed firm floor for Titania's feet — 
while others kept dangling dead or dying by 
the claws, cheating the crusted pie, and all the 
blue skies above were intercepted by cawing 
clouds of distracted parents, now dipping down 
in despair almost within a shot, and now, as 
if sick of this world, soaring away up into the 
very heavens, and disappearing to return no 
more — till sunset should bring silence, and the 
night air roll off the horrid smell of sulphur 
from the desolated bowers; and then indeed 
would they come all flying back upon their 
strong instinct, like black-sailed barks before 
the wind, some from the depth of far-off fir- 
woods, where they had lain quacking at the 
ceaseless cannonade, some from the furrows 
of the new-braided fields aloof on the uplands, 
some from deep dell close at hand, and some 
from the middle of the moorish wilderness. 

Happiest of all human homes, beautiful 



CHRISTOPHER IN HIS SPORTING JACKET. 



17 



Craig-Hall ! For so even now dost thou ap- 
pear to be — in the rich, deep, mellow, green 
light of imagination trembling on tower and 
tree — art thou yetundilapidated and undecayed, 
in thy old manorial solemnity almost majesti- 
cal, though even then thou hadst long been 
tenanted but by an humble farmer's family — 
people of low degree 1 The evening-festival 
of the First Day of the Rooks — nay, scoff not 
at such an anniversary — was still held in thy 
ample kitchen — of old the bower of brave lords 
and ladies bright — while the harper, as he sung 
his song of love or war, kept his eyes fixed on 
her who sat beneath the deas. The days of 
chivalry were gone — and the days had come 
of curds and cream, and, preferred by some 
people though not by us, of cream-cheese. Old 
men and old women, widowers and widows, 
yet all alike cheerful and chatty at a great age, 
for often as they near the dead, how more life- 
like seem the living! Middle-aged men and 
middle-aged women, husbands and wives, those 
sedate, with hair combed straight on their fore- 
heads, sun-burnt faces, and horny hands esta- 
blished on their knees — these serene, with 
countenances many of them not unlovely — 
comely all — and with arms decently folded 
beneath their matronly bosoms — as they sat in 
their holyday dresses, feeling as if the season 
of youth had hardly yet flown by, or were, on 
such a merry meeting, for a blink restored ! 
Boys and virgins — those bold even in their 
bashfulness — these blushing whenever eyes 
met eyes — nor would they — nor could they — 
have spoken in the hush to save their souls ; 
yet ere the evening star arose, many a pretty 
maiden had, down looking and playing with 
the hem. of her garment, sung linnet-like her 
ain favourite auld Scottish sang ! and many a 
sweet sang even then delighted Scotia's spirit, 
though Robin Burns was but a youth — walking 
mute among the wild-flowers on the moor — 
nor aware of the immortal melodies soon to 
breathe from his impassioned heart ! 

Of all the year's holydays, not even except- 
ing the First of May, this was the most delight- 
ful. The First of May, longed for so passion- 
ately from the first peep of the primrose, 
sometimes came deformed with mist and 
cloud, or cheerless with whistling winds, 
or winter-like with a sudden fall of snow. 
And thus all our hopes were dashed — the 
roomy hay-wagon remained in its shed — 
the preparations made for us in the distant 
moorland farmhouse were vain — the fishing- 
rods hung useless on the nails — and discon- 
solate schoolboys sat moping in corners, sorry, 
ashamed, and angry with Scotland's springs. 
But though the "leafy month of June" be fre- 
quently showery, it is almost always sunny too. 
Every half hour there is such a radiant blink 
that the young heart sings aloud for joy ; sum- 
mer rain makes the hair grow, and hats are 
little or no use towards the Longest Day ; there 
is something cheerful even in thunder, if it 
be not rather too near ; the lark has not yet 
ceased altogether to sing, for he soars over 
his second nest, unappalled beneath the sablest 
cloud ; the green earth repels from her reful- 
gent bosom the blackest shadows, nor will 
suffer herself to be saddened in the fulness and I 
3 



brightness of her contentment; through tha 
heaviest flood the blue skies will still be 
making their appearance with an impatient 
smile, and all the rivers and burns, with the 
multitude of their various voices, sing praises 
unto Heaven. 

Therefore, bathing our feet in beauty, we 
went bounding over the flowery fields and 
broomy braes to the grove-girdled Craig-Hall. 
During the long noisy day, we thought not of 
the coming evening, happy as we knew it was 
to be ; and during the long and almost as noisy 
evening, we forgot all the pastime of the day. 
Weeks before, had each of us engaged his 
partner for the first country dance, by right 
his own when supper came, and to sit close to 
him with her tender sid°, with waist at first 
stealthily arm-eneircleJ, and at last boldly and 
almost with proud display. In the churchyard, 
before or after Sabbath -service, a word whis- 
pered into the ear of blooming and blushing 
rustic sufficed ; or if that opportunity failed, 
the angler had but to step into her father's 
burn-side cottage, and with the contents of his 
basket leave a tender request, and from be 
hind the gable-end carry away a word, a smile 
a kiss, and a waving farewell. 

Many a high-roofed hall have we, since those 
days, seen, made beautiful with festoons and 
garlands, beneath the hand of taste and genius 
decorating, for some splendid festival, the abode 
of the noble expecting a still nobler guest. But 
oh ! what pure bliss, and what profound, was 
then breathed into the bosom of boyhood from 
that glorious branch of hawthorn, in the chim- 
ney — itself almost a tree, so thick — so deep- 
so rich its load of blossoms — so like its fra- 
grance to something breathed from heaven — 
and so transitory in its sweetness too, that as 
she approached to inhale it, down fell many a 
snow-flake to the virgin's breath — in an hour 
all melted quite away ! No broom that now-a- 
days grows on the brae, so yellow as the broom 
— the golden broom — the broom that seemed still 
to keep the hills in sunlight long after the sun 
himself had sunk — the broom in which we first 
found the lintwhite's nest — and of its petals, 
more precious than pearls, saw framed a 
wreath for the dark hair of that dark-eyed, 
girl, an orphan, and melancholy even in her 
merriment — dark-haired and dark-eyed indeed,, 
but whose forehead, whose bosom, were yet 
whiter than the driven snow. Greenhouses — 
conservatories — orangeries — are exquisitely 
balmy still — and, in presence of these strange 
plants, one could believe that he had been 
transported to some rich foreign clime. But. 
now we carry the burden of our 3 r ears alongr 
with us — and that consciousness bedims the 
blossoms, and makes mournful the balm, as* 
from flowers in some fair burial-place, breath- 
ing of the tomb. But oh ! that Craig-Hall haw- 
thorn ! and oh ! that Craig-Hall broom ! they 
send their sweet rich scent so far into the- 
hushed air of memory, that all the weary worn- 
out weaknesses of age drop from us like a 
garment, and even now — the flight of that swal- 
lowseems more aerial — more alive with bliss his 
clay-built nest — the ancient long-ago blue of the 
sky returns to heaven— not for many a, many 
a long year have we seen so fair — so frail- — so 
b2 



18 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



transparent and angel-mantle-looking a cloud! 
The very viol speaks — the very dance responds 
in Craig-Hall : this — this is the very festival 
of the First Day of the Rooks — Mary Mather, 
the pride of the parish — the county — the land 
— the earth — is our partner — and long mayest 
thou, O moon ! remain behind thy cloud — 
when the parting kiss is given — and the love- 
ietter, at that tenderest moment, dropped into 
her bosom! 

But we have lost the thread of our discourse, 
and must pause to search for it, even like a 
spinster of old, in the disarranged spindle of 
one of those pretty little wheels now heard no 
more in the humble ingle, hushed by machi- 
nery clink-clanking with power-looms in every 
town and city of the land. Another year, and 
we often found ourselves — alone — or with one 
chosen comrade ; for even then we began to 
have our sympathies and antipathies, not only 
with roses and lilies, or to cats and cheese, but 
with or to the eyes, and looks, and foreheads, 
and hair, and voices, and motions, and silence, 
and rest of human beings, loving them with a 
perfect love — we must not say hating them with 
a perfect hatred — alone or with a friend, among 
the mists and marshes of moors, in silent and 
stealthy search of the solitary curlew, that is, 
the Whawp ! At first sight of his long bill 
aloft above the rushes, we could hear our heart 
beating quick time in the desert ; at the turn- 
ing of his neck, the body being yet still, our 
heart ceased to beat altogether — and we grew 
sick with hope when near enough to see the 
wild beauty of his eye. Unfolded, like a 
thought, was then the brown silence of the 
shy creature's ample wings — and with a 
warning cry he wheeled away upon the wind, 
unharmed by our ineffectual hail, seen falling 
far short of the deceptive distance, while his 
mate that had lain couched — perhaps in her 
nest of eggs or young, exposed yet hidden — 
within killing range, half-running, half-fly- 
ing, flapped herself into flight, simulating 
lame leg and wounded wing; and the two 
disappearing together behind the hills, left 
us in our vain reason thwarted by instinct, 
to resume with live hopes rising out of the 
ashes of the dead, our daily-disappointed 
quest over the houseless mosses. Yet now 
and then to our steady aim the bill of the 
whawp disgorged blood — and as we felt the 
feathers in our hand, and from tip to tip eyed 
the outstretched wings, Fortune, we felt, had 
no better boon to bestow, earth no greater tri- 
umph. 

Hush — stoop — kneel — crawl — for by all our 
hopes of mercy — a heron — a heron ! An eel 
dangling across his bill ! And now the water- 
serpent has disappeared ! From morning dawn 
hath the fowl been fishing here — perhaps on 
that very stone — for it is one of those days when 
eels are a-roaming in the shallows, and the 
heron knows that they are as likely to pass by 
that stone as any other — from morning dawn 
— and 'tis now past meridian, half-past two ! 
T3e propitious, oh ye Fates ! and never — never 
— shall he again fold his wings on the edge of 
his gaping nest, on the trees that overtop the 
only tower left of the old castle. Another eel! 
and we too can crawl silent as the sinuous 



serpent. Flash! Bang! over he goes dead-- 
no, not dead — but how unlike that unavailing 
flapping, as head over heels he goes spinning 
over the tarn, to the serene unsettling of him- 
self from sod or stone, when, his hunger sated, 
and his craw filled with fish for his far-off 
brood, he used to lift his blue bulk into the air, 
and with long depending legs, at first floated 
away like a wearied thing, but soon, as his 
plumes felt the current of air homewards 
flowing, urged swifter and swifter his easy 
course — laggard and lazy no more — leaving 
leagues behind him, ere you had shifted your 
motion in watching his cloudlike career, soon 
invisible among the woods ! 

The disgorged eels are returned — some of 
them alive — to their native element — the mud. 
And the dead heron floats away before small 
winds and waves into the middle of the tarn. 
Where is he — the matchless Newfoundlander 
— nomine gaudens Fro, because white as the 
froth of the sea 1 Off with a col ley. So — stript 
with the first intention, we plunge from a 
rock, and, 

"Though in the scowl of heaven, the tarn 
Grows dark as we are swimming," 

Draco-like, breast-high, we stem the surge, 
and with the heron floating before us, return 
to the heather-fringed shore, and give three 
cheers that startle the echoes, asleep from 
year's end to year's end, in the Grey-Linn 
Cairn. 

Into the silent twilight of many a wild rock- 
and-river scene, beautiful and bewildering as 
the fairy work of sleep, will he find himself 
brought who knows where to seek the heron 
in all his solitary haunts. For often when the 
moors are storm-swept, and his bill- would be 
baffled by the waves of tarn and loch, he sails 
away from his swinging-tree, and through 
some open glade dipping down to the secluded 
stream, alights within the calm chasm, and 
folds his wings in the breezeless air. The 
clouds are driving fast aloft in a carry from 
the sea — but they are all reflected in that pel- 
lucid pool — so perfect the cliff-guarded repose. 
A better day — a better hour — a better minute 
for fishing could not have been chosen by Mr. 
Heron, who is already swallowing a par. 
Another — and another — but something falls 
from the rock into the water; and suspicious, 
though unalarmed, he leisurely addresses him- 
self to a short flight up the channel — round 
that tower-like cliff standing strangely by 
itself, with a crest of self-sown flowering 
shrubs; and lo ! another vista, if possible, just 
a degree more silent — more secluded — more 
solitary — beneath the mid-day night of woods ! 
To shoot thee there — would be as impious as 
to have killed a sacred Ibis stalking in the 
shade of an Egyptian temple. Yet it is fortu- 
nate for thee— folded up there, as thou art, as 
motionless as thy sitting-stone — that at this 
moment we have no fire-arms — for we had 
heard of a fish-like trout in that very pool, and 
this — O Heron — is no gun but a rod. Thou 
believest thyself to be in utter solitude — no 
sportsman but thyself in the chasm— for the 
otter, thou knowest, loves not such very rocky 
rivers; and fish with bitten shoulder seldom 
lies here — that epicure's tasted prey. ¥e2 



CHRISTOPHER IN HIS SPORTING JACKET. 



1» 



within ten yards of thee lies couched thy 
enemy, who once had a design upon thee, even 
in the very egg. Our mental soliloquy disturbs 
not thy watchful sense — for the air stirs not 
when the soul thinks, or feels, or fancies about 
man, bird, or beast. We feel, Heron ! that 
there is not only humanity — but poetry, in our 
being. Imagination haunts and possesses us 
in our pastimes, colouring them even with 
Serious — solemn — and sacred light — and thou 
assuredly hast something priest-like and an- 
cient in thy look — and about thy light-blue 
plume robes, which the very elements admire 
and reverence — the waters wetting them not — 
nor the winds ruffling — and moreover we love 
thee — Heron — for the sake of that old castle, 
beside whose gloom thou utteredst thy first 
feeble cry ! A Ruin nameless, traditionless — 
sole, undisputed property of Oblivion ! 

Hurra ! — Heron — hurra ! why, that was an 
awkward tumble — and very nearly had we 
hold of thee by the tail ! Didst thou take us 
for a water-kelpie 1 A fright like that is 
enough to leave thee an idiot all the rest of 
thy life. 'Tis a wonder thou didst not go into 
fits — but thy nerves must be sorely shaken — 
and what an account of this adventure will 
certainly be shrieked unto thy mate, to the 
music of the creaking boughs ! Not, even 
wert thou a secular bird of ages, wouldst thou 
ever once again revisit this dreadful place. 
For fear has a wondrous memory in all dumb 
creatures — and rather wouldst thou see thy nest 
die of famine, than seek for fish in this man- 
monster-haunted pool ! Farewell ! farewell ! 

Many are the hundreds of hill and mountain 
lochs to us as familiarly known, round all 
their rushy or rocky margins, as that pond 
there in the garden of Buchanan Lodge. That 
pond has but one goose and one gander, and 
nine goslings — about half-a-dozen trouts, if in- 
deed they have not sickened and died of Nos- 
talgia, missing in the stillness the gurgle of 
their native Tweed — and a brace of perch, 
now nothing but prickle. But the lochs — the 
hill, the mountain lochs now in our mind's 
eye and our mind's ear, — heaven and earth ! 
the bogs are black with duck, teal, and widgeon 
— up there "comes for food or play" to the 
holla of the winds, a wedge of wild geese, 
piercing the marbled heavens with clamour — 
and lo !.in the very centre of the mediterranean, 
the Royal Family of the Swans ! Up springs 
the silver sea-trout in the sunshine — see Sir 
Humphrey ! — a salmon — a salmon fresh run 
in love and glory from the sea ! 

For how many admirable articles are there 
themes in the above short paragraph ! Duck, 
teal, and widgeon, wild-geese, swans ! And 
first, duck, teal, and widgeon. There they are, 
all collected together, without regard to party 
politics, in their very best attire, as thick as 
the citizens of Edinburgh, their wives, sweet- 
hearts, and children, on the %lton Hill, on 
the first day of the king's visit to Scotland. As 
thick, but not so steady — for what swimming 
about in circles — what ducking and diving is 
there ! — all the while accompanied with a sort 
of low, thick, gurgling, not unsweet, nor un- 
musical quackery, the expression of the intense 
Joy of feeding, freedom, and play. Oh ! Muc- 



kle-mou'd Meg! neither thou nor the "Lanj 
Gun" are of any avail here — for that old drake> 
who, together with his shadow, on which he 
seems to be sitting, is almost as big as a boat 
in the water, the outermost landward sentinel, 
near as he seems to be in the deception of the 
clear frosty air, is yet better than three hun- 
dred yards from the shore — and, at safe dis- 
tance, cocks his eye at the fowler. There is 
no boat on the loch, and knowing that, how 
tempting in its unapproachable reeds and 
rushes, and hut-crested knoll — a hut built per- 
haps by some fowler, in the olden time — yon 
central Isle ! But be still as a shadow — for 
lo ! a batch of Whig-seceders, paddling all by 
themselves towards that creek — and as surely 
as our name is Christopher, in another quarter 
of an hour, they will consist of killed, wounded, 
and missing. On our belly — with unhatted 
head just peering over the knowe — and Muckle- 
mou'd Meg slowly and softly stretched out on 
the rest, so as not to rustle a windle-strae, we 
lie motionless as a mawkin, till the coterie 
collects together for simultaneous dive down 
to the aquatic plants and insects of the fast- 
shallowing bay; and, just as they are upon the 
turn with their tails, a single report, loud as a 
volley, scatters the unsparing slugs about their 
doups, and the still clear water, in sudden dis- 
turbance, is afloat with scattered feathers, and 
stained with blood. 

Now is the time for the snow-white, here 
and there ebon-spotted Fro — who with burning 
eyes has lain couched like a spaniel, his quick 
breath ever and anon trembling on a passionate 
whine, to bounce up, as if discharged by a 
catapulta, and first with immense and enor- 
mous high-and-far leaps, and then, fleet as any 
greyhound, with a breast-brushing brattle down 
the brae, to dash, all fours, like a flying squir- 
rel fearlessly from his tree, many yards into 
the bay with one splashing and momentarily 
disappearing spang, and then, head and 
shoulders and broad line of back and rudder 
tail, all elevated above or level with the wavy 
water line, to mouth first that murdered maw- 
sey of a mallard, tying as still as if she had 
been dead for years, with her round, fat, brown 
bosom towards heaven — then that old Drake, 
in a somewhat similar posture, but in more 
gorgeous apparel, his belly being of a pale 
gray, and his back delicately pencilled and 
crossed with numberless waved dusky lines — 
precious prize to one skilled like us in the 
angling art — next — nobly done, glorious Fro— 
that cream colour crowned widgeon, with 
bright rufus chestnut breast, separated from 
the neck by loveliest waved ash-brown and 
white lines, while our mind's eye feasteth on 
the indescribable and changeable green beauty- 
spot of his wings — and now, if we mistake not, 
a Golden Eye, best described by his name — 
finally, that exquisite little duck the Teal; yes, 
poetical in its delicately pencilled spots as an 
Indian shell, and when kept to an hour, roasted 
to a minute, gravied in its own wild richness, 
with some few other means and appliances to 
boot, carved finely— most finely — by razor-like 
knife, in a hand skilful to dissect and cunning 
to divide— tasted by a tongue and palate both 
healthily pure as the dewy petal of a morning 



20 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



rose -swallowed by a gullet felt gradually to 
be extending itself in its intense delight — and 
received into a stomach yawning with greed 
and gratitude, — oh ! surely the thrice-blessed 
of all web-footed birds; the apex of Apician 
luxury; and able, were any thing on the face 
of this feeble earth able, to detain a soul, on 
the very brink of fate, a short quarter of an 
hour from an inferior Elysium ! 

How nobly, like a craken or sea-serpent, 
Fro reareth his massy head above the foam, 
his gathered prey seized — all four — by their 
limber necks, and brightening, like a bunch of 
flowers, as they glitter towards the shore ! 
With one bold body-shake, felt to the point of 
each particular hair, he scatters the water 
from his coat like mist, reminding one of that 
glorious line in Shakspeare, 

"Like dewdrops from the Lion's mane," 

advancing with sinewy legs seemingly length- 
ened by the drenching flood, and dripping tail 
stretched out in all its broad longitude, with 
hair almost like white hanging plumes — mag- 
nificent as tail of the Desert-Born at the head 
of his seraglio in the Arabian Sands. Halfway 
his master meets his beloved Fro on the slope ; 
and first proudly and haughtily pausing to 
mark our eye, and then humbly, as beseemeth 
one whom nature, in his boldest and brightest 
bearing, hath yet made a slave — he lays the 
offering at our feet, and having felt on his 
capacious forehead the approving pressure of 
our hand, 

"While, like the murmur of a dream, 
He hears us breathe his name," 

he suddenly flings himself round with a wheel 
of transport, and in many a widening circle 
pursues his own uncontrollable ecstasies with 
whirlwind speed ; till, as if utterly joy-ex- 
hausted, he brings his snow-white bulk into 
dignified repose on a knoll, that very moment 
illuminated by a burst of sunshine ! 

Not now — as fades upon our pen the solemn 
light of the dying day — shall we dare to decide, 
whether or not Nature — most matchless 
creature of thy kind ! — gave thee, or gave thee 
not, the gift of an immortal soul ! Better such 
creed — fond and foolish though it maybe — yet 
scarcely unscriptural, for in each word of 
scripture there are many meanings, even when 
each sacred syllable is darkest to be read, — 
better such creed than that of the atheist or 
skeptic, distracted ever in his seemingly sullen 
apathy, by the dim, dark doom of dust. Better 
that Fro should live, than that Newton should 
die — for ever. What though the benevolent 
Howard devoted his days to visit the dungeon's 
gloom, and by intercession with princes, to set 
the prisoners free from the low damp-dripping 
stone roof of the deep-dug cell beneath the 
foundation rocks of the citadel, to the high 
dewdropping vault of heaven, too, too daz- 
zlingly illumined by the lamp of the insufferable 
sun ! There reason triumphed — those were 
the works of glorified humanity. But thou — 
a creature of mere instinct — according to 
Descartes, a machine, an automaton — hadst 
yet a constant light of thought and of affection 
in thine eyes — nor wert thou without some 
glimmering and mysterious notions — and what 



more have we ourselves? — of life and of 
death ! Why fear to say that thou wert di- 
vinely commissioned and inspired — on that 
most dismal and shrieking hour, when little 
Harry Seymour, that bright English boy, 
"whom all that looked on loved," entangled 
among the cruel chains of those fair water- 
lilies, all so innocently yet so murderously 
floating round him, was, by all standing or 
running about there with clenched hands, or 
kneeling on the sod — given up to inextricable 
death 1 We were not present to save the dear 
boy, who had been delivered to our care as to 
that of an elder brother, by the noble lady who, 
in her deep widow's weeds, kissed her sole 
darling's sunny head, and disappeared. We 
were not present — or by all that is holiest in 
heaven or on earth — our arms had been soon 
around thy neck, when thou wert seemingly 
about to perish ! 

But a poor, dumb, despised dog — nothing, as 
some say, but animated dust — was there — and 
without shout or signal — for all the Christian 
creatures were alike helpless in their despair 
— shot swift as a sunbeam over the deep, and 
by those golden tresses, sinking and brighten- 
ing through the wave, brought the noble child 
ashore, and stood over him, as if in joy and 
sorrow, lying too like death on the sand ! And 
when little Harry opened his glazed eyes, and 
looked bewildered on all the faces around — 
and then fainted, and revived and fainted again 
— till at last he came to dim recollection of 
this world on the bosom of the physician 
brought thither with incomprehensible speed 
from his dwelling afar off— thou didst lick his 
cold white hands and blue face, with a whine 
that struck awful pity into all hearts, and thou 
didst follow him — one of the group — as he was 
borne along — and frisking and gambolling no 
more all that day, gently didst thou lay thyself 
down at the feet of his little bed, and watch 
there unsleeping all night long ! For the boy 
knew that God had employed one of his lowly 
creatures to save him — and beseeched that he 
might lie there to be looked at by the light of 
the taper, till he himself, as the pains went 
away, might fall asleep ! And we, the watchers 
by his bed-side, heard him in his dreams men- 
tioning the creature's name in his prayers. 

Yet at times — Fro — thou wert a sad dog 
indeed — neither to bind nor to hold — for thy 
blood was soon set a-boil, and thou — like Ju- 
lius Caesar — and Demetrius Poliorcetes — and 
Alexander the Great — and many other ancient 
and modern kings and heroes — thou wert the 
slave of thy passions. No Scipio wert thou 
with a Spanish captive. Often — in spite of 
threatening eye and uplifted thong — uplifted 
only, for thou went'st unflogged to thy grave — 
didst thou disappear for days at a time — as if 
lost or dead. Rumours of thee were brought 
to the kirk by shepherds from the remotest 
hills in the parish — most confused and contra- 
dictory — but, when collected and compared, 
all agreeing in this — that thou wert living, and 
life-like, and life-imparting, and after a season 
from thy travels to return ; and return thou still 
didst — wearied often and wo-begone — purpled 
thy snow-white curling— and thy broad breast 
torn, not disfigured, by honourable wounds. For 



CHRISTOPHER IN HIS SPORTING JACKET. 



SI 



never yet saw we a fighter like thee. Up on 
thy hind legs in a moment, like a growling 
Polar monster, with thy fore-paws round thy 
foeman's neck, bull-dog, colly, mastiff, or grey- 
hound, and down with him in a moment, with 
as much ease as Cass, in the wrestling-ring at 
Carlisle, would throw a Bagman, and then wo 
to the throat of the downfallen, for thy jaws 
were shark-like as they opened and shut with 
their terrific tusks, grinding through skin and 
sinew to the spine. 

Once, and once only — bullied out of all en- 
durance by a half-drunken carrier — did we con- 
sent to let thee engage in a pitched battle with 
a mastiff victorious in fifty fights — a famous 
shanker — and a throttler beyond all compare. 
It was indeed a bloody business — now growl- 
ing along the glawr of the road — a hairy hurri- 
cane — now snorting in the suffocating ditch — 
now fair play on the clean and clear crown of 
the causey — now rolling over and over through 
a chance-open white little gate, into a cottage- 
garden — now separated by choking them both 
with a chord — now brought out again with 
savage and fiery eyes to the scratch on a green 
plat round the sign-board-swinging tree in the 
middle of the village — auld women in their 
mutches crying out, " Shame ! whare's the 
minister 1" — young women, with combs in their 
pretty heads, blinking with pale and almost 
weeping faces from low-lintelled doors — chil- 
dren crowding for sight and safety on the 
louping-on-stone — and loud cries ever and anon 
at each turn and eddy of the fight, of "Well 
done, Fro, well done, Fro — see how he worries 
his windpipe — well done, Fro !" for Fro was 
the delight and glory of the whole parish, and 
the honour of all its inhabitants, male and fe- 
male, was felt to be staked on the issue — 
while at intervals was heard the harsh hoarse 
voice of the carriers and his compeers, cursing 
and swearing in triumph in a many-oathed 
language peculiar to the race that drive the 
broad-wheeled wagons with the high canvas 
roofs, as the might of Teeger prevailed, and 
the indomitable Fro seemed to be on his last 
legs beneath a grip of the jugular, and then 
stretched motionless and passive — in defeat or 
death. A mere ruse to recover wind. Like 
unshorn Samson starting from his sleep, and 
snapping like fired flax the vain bands of the 
Philistines, Fro whawmled Teeger off, and 
twisting round his head in spite of the grip on 
the jugular, the skin stretching and giving way 
in a ghastly but unfelt wound, he suddenly 
'seized with all his tusks his antagonist's eye, 
and bit it clean out of the socket. A yowl of 
unendurable pain — spouting of blood — sick- 
ness — swooning — tumbling over — and death. 
His last fight is over ! His remaining eye 
glazed — his protruded tongue bitten in anguish 
by his own grinding teeth — his massy hind 
legs stretched out with a kick like a horse — 
his short tail stiffens — he is laid out a grim 
corpse — fluug into a cart tied behind the 
wagon — and off to the tan-yard. 

No shouts of victory — but stern, sullen, half- 
ashamed silence — as of guilty things after 
the perpetration of a misdeed. Still glaring 
savagely, ere yet the wrath of fight has sub- 
sided in his heart, and going and returning to 



the bloody place, uncertain whether or not his 
enemy were about to return, Fro finally lies 
down at some distance, and with bloody flews 
keeps licking his bloody legs, and with long 
darting tongue cleansing the mire from his 
neck, breast, side, and back — a sanguinary 
spectacle ! He seems almost insensible to our 
caresses, and there is something almost like 
upbraiding in his victorious eyes. Now that 
his veins are cooling, he begins to feel the pain 
of his wounds — many on, and close to vital 
parts. Most agonizing of all — all his four 
shanks are tusk-pierced, and, in less than ten 
minutes, he limps away to his kennel, lame as 
if riddled by shot — 

"Heu quantum mutatus ab illo 
Hectore I" 
gore-besmeared and dirt-draggled — an hour 
ago serenely bright as the lily in June, or the 
April snow. The huge wagon moves away 
out of the clachan without its master, who, 
ferocious from the death of the other brute he 
loved, dares the whole school to combat. Off 
fly a dozen jackets — and a devil's dozen of 
striplings from twelve past to going sixteen — 
firmly wedged together like the Macedonian 
Phalanx — are yelling for the fray. There is 
such another shrieking of women as at the 
taking of Troy. But 
"The Prince of Mearns stept forth before the crowd, 
And, Carter, challenged you to single fight!" 

Bob Howie, who never yet feared the face of 
clay, and had too great a heart to suffer mere 
children to combat the strongest and most 
unhappy man in the whole country — stripped 
to the buff; and there he stands, with 

"An eye like Mars, to threaten and command;" 

shoulders like Atlas — breast like Hercules — 
and arms like Vulcan. The heart of Benja- 
min the wagoner dies within him — he accepts 
the challenge for a future day — and retreating 
backwards to his clothes, receives a right- 
hander as from a sledge-hammer on the temple, 
that fells him like an ox. The other carters 
all close in, but are sent spinning in. all direc- 
tions as from the sails of a windmill. Ever 
as each successive lout seeks the earth, we 
savage school-bo3 r s rush in upon him in twos, 
and threes, and fours, basting and battering 
him as he bawls ; at this very crisis — so fate 
ordained — are seen hurrying down the hill 
from the south, leaving their wives, sweet- 
hearts, and asses in the rear, with coal-black 
hair and sparkling eyes, brown brawny legs, 
and clenched iron fists at the end of long arms, 
swinging flail-like at all times, and more than 
now, ready for the fray, a gang of Gipsies ! 
while — beautiful coincidence! — up the hill 
from the north come on, at double-quick time, 
an awkward squad of as grim Milesians as 
ever buried a pike in a Protestant. Nor ques- 
tion nor reply; but in a moment a general 
melee. Men at work in the hay-fields, who 
would not leave their work for a dog-fight, fling 
down scythe and rake, and over hedges inu? 
the high-road, a stalwart reinforcement. Weav- 
ers leap from their treddles — doff their blue 
aprons, and out into the air. The red-cowled 
tailor pops his head through a skylight, and 
next moment is in the street. The butcher 
strips his Jong light-blue linen coat, to engage 



22 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



a Paddy ; and the smith, ready for action — for 
the huge arms of Burniwind are always bare — 
with a hand-ower-hip delivery, makes the head 
of the king of the gipsies ring like an anvil. 
There has been no marshalling of forces — yet 
lo! as if formed in two regular lines by the 
Adjutant himself after the first tuilzie, stand 
the carters, the gipsies, and the Irishmen, op- 
posed to Bob Howie, the butcher, the smith, 
the tailor, the weaver, the hay-makers, and the 
boys from the manse — the latter drawn up cau- 
tiously, but not cowardly, in the rear. What a 
twinkling of fists and shillelas ! what bashed and 
bloody noses ! cut blubber lips — cheekbones 
out of all proportion to the rest of the face, and, 
through sudden black and blue tumefactions, 
men's changed into pigs' eyes ! And now there 
is also rugging of caps and mutches and hair, 
"femineo ululatu," for the Egyptian Amazons 
bear down like furies on the glee'd widow that 
keeps the change-house, half-witted Shoosy 
that sells yellow sand, and Davie Donald's dun 
daughter, commonly called Spunkie. What 
shrieking and tossing of arms, round the whole 
length and breadth of the village ! Where is 
Simon Andrew the constable 1 Where is auld 
Robert Maxwell the ruling elder 1 What can 
have become of Laird Warnock, w r hose word 
is law? An what can the Minister be about, 
can anybody tell, that he does not come flying 
from the manse to save the lives of his pa- 
rishioners from cannibals, and gipsies, and 
Eerish, murdering their way to the gallows ? 

How — why — or when — that bloody battle 
ceased to be, was never distinctly known either 
then or since ; but, like every thing else, it had 
an end — and even now we have a confused 
dream of the spot at its termination — naked 
men tying on their backs in the mire, all 
drenched in blood — with women, some old and 
ugly, v/ith shrivelled witch-like hag breasts, 
others young, and darkly, swarthily, blackly 
beautiful, with budding or new-blown bosoms 
unkerchiefed in the colley-shangy — perilous to 
see — leaning over them : and these were the 
Egyptians! Men in brown shirts, gore-spot- 
ted, with green bandages round their broken 
heads, laughing, and joking, and jeering, and 
singing, and shouting, though desperately 
mauled and mangled — while Scottish wives, 
and widows, and maids, could not help crying 
out in sympathy, " Oh ! but they're bonnie men 
— what a pity they should aye be sae fond o' 
fechting, and a' manner o' mischief!" — and 
fhesewere the Irishmen ! Retired and apart, 
hangs the weaver, with his head over a wall, 
dog-sick, and bocking in strong convulsions ; 
some haymakers are washing their cut faces 
in the well : the butcher, bloody as a bit of his 
own beef, walks silent into the shambles ; the 
smith, whose grimy face hides its pummelling, 
goes off grinning a ghastly smile in the hands 
of his scolding, yet not unloving wife ; the 
tailor, gay as a flea, and hot as his own goose, 
to show how much more he has given than 
received, offers to leap any man on the ground, 
hop-step-arid-jump, for a mutchkin — while Bob 
Howie walks about, without a visible wound, ex- 
cept the mark of bloody knuckles on his brawny 
oreast, with arms a-kimbo, seaman fashion — 
for Bob had been at sea — and as soon as the 



whisky comes, hands it about at his own ex- 
pense, caulker after caulker, to the vanquished 
— for Bob was as generous as brave ; had no 
spite at the gipsies ; and as for Irishmen, why 
they were ranting, roving, red-hot, dare-devil 
boys, just like himself; and after the fight, 
J he would have gone with them to Purgatory, 
or a few. steps further down the hill. All the 
battle through, we manse-boys had fought, it 
may be said, behind the shadow of him our 
hero ; and in warding off mischief from us, 
he received not a few heavy body-blows from 
King Carew, a descendant of Bamfylde Moore, 
and some crown-cracks from the shillelas of 
the Connaught Rangers. 

Down comes a sudden thunder-plump, mak- 
ing the road a river — and to the whiff o' light- 
ning, all in the shape of man, woman, and 
child, are under roof-cover. The afternoon 
soon clears up, and the haymakers leave the 
clanking empty gill or half-mutchkin stoup, 
for the field, to see what the rain has done — 
the forge begins again to roar — the sound of 
the flying shuttle tells us that the weaver is 
again on his treddles ; the tailor hoists up his 
little window in the thatch, in that close con- 
finement, to enjoy the caller air — the tinklers 
go to encamp on the common — "the air is 
balm" — insects, dropping from eave and tree, 
" show to the sun their waved coats dropt with 
gold" — though the season of bird-singing be 
over and gone, there is a pleasant chirping 
hereabouts, thereabouts, everywhere ; the old 
blind beggar, dog-led, goes from door to door, 
unconscious that such a stramash has ever 
been — and dancing round our champion, away 
w r e schoolboys all fly with him lo swim in the 
Brother Loch, taking our fishing-rods with us, 
for one clap of thunder will not frighten the 
trouts ; and about the middle or end of July, 
we have known great labbers, twenty inches 
long, play wallop between our very feet, in 
the w r arm shallow water, within a yard of the 
edge, to the yellow bodied, tinsey-tailed, black 
half-heckle, with brown mallard wing, a mere 
midge, but once fixed in lip or tongue, "inex- 
tricable as the gorged lion's bite." 

But ever after that passage in the life of Fro, 
his were, on the whole, years of peace. Every 
season seemed to strengthen his sagacity, and 
to unfold his wonderful instincts. Most as- 
suredty he knew all the simpler parts of speech 
— all the household words in the Scottish lan- 
guage. He was, in all our pastimes, as much 
one of ourselves, as if, instead of being a Pagan 
with four feet, he had been a Christian with 
two. As for temper, we trace the sweetness 
of our own to his ; an angry word from one he 
loved, he forgot in half a minute, offering his 
lion-like paw ; yet there were particular peo- 
ple he could not abide, nor from their hands 
would he have accepted a roasted potato out 
of the dripping pan, and in this he resembled 
his master. He knew the Sabbath-day as 
well as the Sexton — and never was known to 
j bark till the Monday morning when the cock 
crew; and then he would give a long musical 
yowl, as if his breast were relieved from silence. 
If ever, in this cold, changeful, inconstant world, 
there was a friendship that might be called sin- 
cere, it was that which, half a century ago and 



CHRISTOPHER IN HIS SPORTING JACKET. 



23 



upwards, subsisted between Christopher North 
and John Fro. We never had a quarrel in all 
our lives — and within these two months we 
made a pilgrimage to his grave. He was bu- 
ried — not by our hands, but by the hands of one 
whose tender and manly heart loved the old, 
blind, deaf, staggering creature to the very- 
last — for such in his fourteenth year he truly 
was — a sad and sorry sight to see, to them who 
remembered the glory of his stately and ma- 
jestic years. One day he crawled with a moan- 
like whine to our brother's feet, and expired. 
Reader, young, bright, and beautiful though 
thou be — remember all flesh is dust ! 

This is an episode — a tale in itself complete, 
yet growing out of, and appertaining to, the 
main plot of Epic or Article. You will recol- 
lect we were speaking of ducks, teals, and 
widgeons — and we come now to the next clause 
of the verse — wild geese and swans. 

Some people's geese are all swans ; but so 
far from that being the case with ours — sad 
and sorry are we to say it — now all our swans 
are geese. But in our buoyant boyhood, all 
God's creatures were to our eyes just as God 
made them; and there was ever — especially 
birds — a tinge of beauty over them all. What 
an inconceivable difference — distance — to the 
imagination, between the nature of a tame and 
a wild goose ! Aloft in heaven, themselves in 
night invisible, the gabble of a cloud of wild 
geese is sublime. Whence comes it — whither 
goes it — for what end, and by what power im- 
pelled 1 Reason sees not into the darkness of 
instinct — and therefore the awe-struck heart 
of the night-wandering boy beats to hear the 
league-long gabble that probably has winged 
its wedge-like way from the lakes, and marshes, 
and dreary morasses of Siberia, from Lapland, 
or Iceland, or the unfrequented and unknown 
northern regions of America — regions set 
apart, quoth Bewick we believe, for summer 
residences and breeding places, and where they 
are amply provided with a variety of food, a 
large portion of which must consist of the 
larva? of gnats, and myriads of insects, there 
fostered by the unsetting sun ! Now they are 
all gabbling good Gaelic over a Highland night- 
moor. Perhaps in another hour the descend- 
ing cloud will be covering the wide waters at 
the head of the wild Loch Maree — or, silent 
and asleep, the whole host be riding at anchor 
around Lomond's Isles ! 

But 'tis now mid-day — and lo ! in that medi- 
terranean — a flock of wild Swans ! Have they 
dropt down from the ether into the water al- 
most as pure as ether, without having once 
folded their wings, since they rose aloft to shun 
the insupportable northern snows hundreds of 
leagues beyond the storm-swept Orcades 1 To 
look at the quiet creatures, you might think 
that they had never left the circle of that little 
loch. There they hang on their shadows, 
even as if asleep in the sunshine ; and now 
stretching out their long wings — how apt for 
flight from clime to clime ! — joyously they beat 
the liquid radiance, till to the loud, flapping 
high rises the mist, and wide spreads the foam, 
almost sufficient for a rainbow. Safe are ihey 
from all birds of prey. The Osprey dashes 
down on the teal, or sea-trout, swimming with- 



in or below their shadow. The great Erne, o* 
Sea-eagle, pounces on the mallard, as he 
mounts from the bulrushes before the wild 
swans sailing, with all wings hoisted, like a 
fleet — but osprey nor eagle dares to try his 
talons on that stately bird— for he is bold in 
his beauty, and formidable as he is fair; the 
pinions that swim and soar can also smite; 
and though the one be a lover of war, the other 
of peace, yet of them it may be said, 
" The eagle he is lord above, 
The swan is lord below !" 

To have shot such a creature — so large — 
so white — so high-soaring — and on the winds 
of midnight wafted from so far — a creature 
that seemed not merely a stranger in that loch, 
but belonging to some mysterious land in 
another hemisphere, whose coast ships with 
frozen rigging have been known to visit, 
driving under bare poles through a month's 
snow storms — to have shot such a creature 
was an era in our imagination, from which, 
had nature been more prodigal, we might have 
sprung up a poet. Once, and but once, we 
were involved in the glory of that event. The 
creature had been in a dream of some river 
or lake in Kamtschatka — or ideally listening, 

"Across the waves' tumultuous roar, 
The wolf's long howl from Oonalashka's shore," 

when, guided by our good genius and our 
brightest star, we suddenly saw him sitting 
asleep in all his state, within gunshot, in a bay 
of the moonlight Loch ! We had nearly fainted 
— died on the very spot — and why were we not 
entitled to have died as well as any other 
passionate spirit, whom joy ever divorced 
from life 1 We blew his black bill into pieces 
— not a feather on his head but was touched ; 
and like a little white-sailed pleasure-boat 
caught in a whirlwind, the wild swan spun 
round, and then lay motionless on the water, 
as if all her masts had gone by the board. 
We were all alone that night — not even Fro 
was with us ; we had reasons for being alone, 
for we wished not that there should be any 
foot-fall but our own round that mountain-hut. 
Could we swim 1 Ay, like the wild swan him- 
self, through surge or breaker. But now the 
loch was still as the sky, and twenty strokes 
carried us close to the glorious creature, which, 
grasped by both hands, and supporting us as 
it was trailed beneath our breast, while we 
floated 'rather than swam ashore, we felt to be 
in verity our — Prey ! We trembled with a 
sort of fear, to behold him lying indeed dead 
on the sward. The moon — the many stars, 
here and there one wondrously large and 
lustrous — the hushed glittering loch — the hills, 
though somewhat dimmed, green all winter 
through, with here and there a patch of snow 
on their summits in the blue sky, on which lay 
a few fleecy clouds — the mighty foreign bird, 
whose plumage we had never hoped to touch 
but in a dream, lying like the ghost of some- 
thing that ought not to have been destroyed— 
the scene was altogether such as made our 
wild young heart quake, and almost repent of 
having killed a creature so surpassingly 
beautiful. But that was a fleeting fancy— and 
over the wide moors we went, like an American 
Indian laden with game, journeying to his 



24 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



wigwam over the wilderness. As we whitened 
towards the village in the light of morning, the 
earlier labourers held up their hands in wonder 
what and who we might be ; and Fro, who had 
missed his master, and was lying awake for 
him on the mount, came bounding along, nor 
could refrain the bark of delighted passion as 
his nose nuzzled in the soft down of the bosom 
of the creature whom he remembered to have 
sometimes seen floating too far off in the lake, 
or far above our reach cleaving the firmament. 



FYTTE THIRD. 

M.cckle-mou'd Meg! and can it be that 
thou art numbered among forgotten things — 
unexistences ! 

"Roll'd round in earth's diurnal course, 
With rocks, and stones, and trees !" 

What would we not now give for a sight — 
a kiss — of thy dear lips ! Lips which we re- 
member once to have put to our own, even 
when thy beloved barrel was double-loaded ! 
Now we sigh to think on what then made us 
shudder! Oh! that thy butt were but now 
resting on our shoulder ! Alas ! for ever 
discharged ! Burst and rent asunder, art thou 
now lying buried in a peat-moss 1 Did some 
vulgar villain of a village Vulcan convert thee, 
name and nature, into nails'? Some dark- 
visaged Douglas of a henroost-robbing Egyp- 
tian, solder thee into a pan 1 Oh ! that our 
passion could dig down unto thee in the 
bowels of the earth — and with loud lamenting 
elegies, and louder hymns of gratulation, re- 
store thee, buttless, lockless, vizyless, burst, 
rent, torn, and twisted though thou be'st, to the 
light of day, and of the world-rejoicing Sun ! 
Then would we adorn thee with evergreen 
wreaths of the laurel and the ivy — and hang 
thee up, in memory and in monument of all 
the bright, dim, still, stormy days of our boy- 
hood — when gloom itself was glory — and when 
—But 

" Be hush'd my dark spirit ! for wisdom condemns, 
When the faint and the feeble deplore." 

Cassandra— Corinna— Sappho— Lucretia — Cle- 
opatra — Tighe — De Stael — in their beauty or 
in their genius, are, with millions on millions 
of the fair-faced or bright-souled, nothing but 
dust and ashes ; and as they are, so shall Baillie, 
and Grant, and Hemans, and Landon be — and 
why vainly yearn " with love and longings in- 
finite," to save from doom of perishable nature 
— of all created things, but one alone — Muckle- 
mou'd Meg! 

After a storm comes a calm ; and we hasten 
to give the sporting world the concluding ac- 
count of our education. In the moorland 
parish — God bless it — in which we had the 
inestimable advantage of passing our boyhood 
— there were a good many falcons — of course 
the kite or glead — the buzzard — the sparrow- 
hawk — the marsh harrier — that imp the merlin 
— and, rare bird and beautiful! there, on a 
cliff which, alas ! a crutched man must climb 
no more, did the Peregrine build her nest. 
You must not wonder at this, for the parish 
was an extensive one even for Scotland — half 
Highland, half Lowland — and had not only 
" muirs and mosses many o," but numerous 



hills, not a few mountains, some most extra- 
ordinary cliffs, considerable store of woods, 
and one, indeed, that might well be called The 
Forest. 

Lift up thy rock-crowned forehead through 
thy own sweet stormy skies, Auld Scotland ! 
and as sternly and grimly thou look'st far over 
the hushed or howling seas, remember thee — 
till all thy moors and mosses quake at thy 
heart, as if swallowing up an invading army 
— a fate that oft befell thy foes of yore — re- 
member thee, in mist-shrouded dream, and 
cloud-born vision, of the long line of kings, 
and heroes, and sages, and bards, whose hal 
lowed bones sleep in pine-darkened tombs 
among the mountain heather, by the side of 
rivers, and lochs, and arms of ocean — their 
spirits yet seen in lofty superstition, sailing 
or sitting on the swift or settled tempest. Lift 
up thy rock-crowned forehead, Auld Scotland! 
and sing aloud to all the nations of the earth, 
with thy voice of cliffs, and caves, and caverns, 

" Wha daur meddle wi' me V* 
What! some small, puny, piteous windpipes 
are heard cheeping against thee from the Cock- 
neys — like ragged chickens agape in the pip. 
How the feeble and fearful creatures would 
crawl on their hands and knees, faint and 
giddy, and shrieking out for help to the heather 
stalks, if forced to face one of thy cliffs, and 
foot its flinty bosom ! How would the depths 
of their long ears, cotton-stuffed in vain, ache 
to the spray-thunder of thy cataracts ! Sick, 
sick would be their stomachs, storm-swept in 
a six-oared cutter into the jaws of Staffa ! That 
sight is sufficient to set the most saturnine on the 
guffaw — the Barry Cornwall himself, crossing 
a chasm a hundred yards deep, 

" On the uncertain footing of a spar," 

on a tree felled where it stood, centuries ago» 
by steel or storm, into a ledgeless bridge, oft 
sounding and shaking to the hunter's feet in 
chase of the red-deer ! The Cockneys do not 
like us Scotchmen — because of our high cheek- 
bones. They are sometimes very high indeed, 
very coarse, and very ugly, and give a Scotch- 
man a grim and gaunt look, assuredl}' not to 
be sneezed at, with any hope of impunity, on 
a dark day and in a lonesome place, by the 
most heroic chief of the most heroic clan in 
all the level land of Lud, travelling all by him- 
self in ahorse and gig, and with a black boy in a 
cockaded glazed hat, through the Heelands o' 
Scotland, passing of course, at the very least, for 
a captain of Hussars ! Then Scotchmen canna 
keep their backs straught, it seems, and are al- 
ways booin' and boom' afore a great man. 
Cannot they, indeed 1 Do they, indeed 1 As- 
cend with that Scottish shepherd yon moun- 
tain's breast — swim with him that mountain 
loch — a bottle of Glenlivet, who first stands in 
shallow water, on the Oak Isle — and whose 
back will be straughtest, that of the Caledo- 
nian or the Cockney 1 The little Luddite will 
be puking among the heather, about some five 
hundred feet above the level of the sea — higher 
for the first time in his life than St. Paul's, and 
nearer than he will again be, either in the spirit 
or the flesh, to heaven. The little Luddite 
will be puking in the hitherto unpolluted loch, 



CHRISTOPHER IN HIS SPORTING JACKET. 



25 



after some seven strokes or so, with a strong 
Scottish weed twisted like an eel round its 
thigh, and shrieking out for the nearest resus- 
citating machine in a country, where, alas ! 
there is no Humane Society. The back of the 
shepherd — even in presence of that "great 
man" — will be as straught as — do not tremble, 
Cockney — this Crutch. Conspicuous from afar 
like a cairn, from the inn-door at Arrochar, in 
an hour he will be turning up his little finger 
so — on the Cobbler's head ; or, in twenty mi- 
nutes, gliding like a swan, or shooting like a 
salmon, his back being still straught — -leaving 
Luss, he will be shaking the dewdrops from his 
brawny body on the silver sand of Inch Morren. 
And happy were we, Christopher North, 
happy were we in the parish in which Fate de- 
livered us up to Nature, that, under her tuition, 
our destinies might be fulfilled. A parish ! 
Why it was in itself a kingdom — a world. 
Thirty miles long by twenty at the broadest, 
and five at the narrowest ; and is not that a 
kingdom — is not that a world worthy of any 
monarch that ever wore a crown 1 ? Was it 
level ? Yes, league-long levels were in it of 
greensward, hard as the sand of the sea-shore, 
yet springy and elastic, fit training ground for 
Childers, or Eclipse, or Hambletonian, or Smo- 
lensko, or for a charge of cavalry in some great 
pitched battle, while artillery might keep play- 
ing against artillery from innumerous affront- 
ing hills. Was it boggy? Yes, black bogs 
were there, which extorted a panegyric from 
the roving Irishman in his richest brogue — 
bogs in which forests had of old been buried, 
and armies with all their banners. Was it 
hilly ? Ay, there the white sheep nibbled, and 
the back cattle grazed; there they baa'd and 
they lowed upon a thousand hills — a crowd of 
cones, all green as emerald. Was it moun- 
tainous ? Give answer from afar, ye mist- 
shrouded summits, and ye clouds cloven by 
the eagle's wing ! But whether ye be indeed 
mountains, or whether ye be clouds, who can 
tell, bedazzled as are his eyes by that long- 
lingering sunset, that drenches heaven and 
earth in one indistinguishable glory, setting 
the West on fire, as if the final conflagration 
were begun! Was it woody] Hush, hush, 
and you will hear a pine-cone drop in the 
central silence of a forest — a silent and soli- 
tary wilderness — in which you may wander a 
whole day long, unaccompanied but by the 
cushat, the corby, the falcon, the roe, and they 
are all shy of human feet, and, like thoughts, 
pas's away in a moment ; so if you long for 
less fleeting farewells from the native dwellers 
in the wood, lo ! the bright brown queen of the 
butterflies, gay and gaudy in her glancings 
through the solitude, the dragon-fly whirring 
bird-like over the pools in the glade ; and if 
your ear desire music, the robin and the wren 
may haply trill you a few notes among the 
briery rocks, or the bold blackbird open wide 
his yellow bill in his holly-vree, and set the 
squirrels a-leaping all within reach of his 
ringing roundelay. Any rivers? one — to whom 
a thousand torrents are tributary — as he him- 
self is tributary to the sea. Any lochs ? How 
many we know not — for we never counted 
them twice alike — omitting perhaps some 



forgotten tarns, or counting twice over some 
one of our more darling waters, worthy to dash 
their waves against the sides of ships — alone 
wanting to the magnificence of those inland 
seas ! Yes — it was as level, as boggy, as 
hilly, as mountainous, as woody, as lochy, 
and as rivery a parish, as ever laughed to 
scorn Colonel Mudge and his Trigonometrical 
Survey. 

Was not that a noble parish for apprentice- 
ship in sports and pastimes of a great master ? 
No need of any teacher. On the wings of joy 
we were borne over the bosom of nature, and 
learnt all things worthy and needful to be 
learned, by instinct first, and afterwards by 
reason. To look at a wild creature — winged 
with feathers, or mere feet — and not desire to 
destroy or capture it — is impossible to passion 
— to imagination — to fancy. Thus had we 
longed to feel and handle the glossy plumage 
of the beaked bird — the wide-winged Birds of 
Prey — before our finger had ever touched a 
trigger. Their various flight, in various wea- 
ther, we had watched and noted with some- 
thing even of the eye of a naturalist — the 
wonder of a poet; for among the brood of 
boys there are hundreds and thousands of 
poets who never see manhood, — the poetry 
dying away — the boy growing up into mere 
prose ; — yet to some even of the paragraphs 
of these Three Fyttes do we appeal, that a few 
sparks of the sacred light are yet alive within 
us ; and sad to our old ears would be the sound 
of " Put out the light, and then — put out the 
light!" Thus were we impelled, even when a 
mere child, far away from the manse, for miles, 
into the moors and woods. Once it was feared 
that poor wee Kit was lost; for having set off 
all by himself, at sunrise, to draw a night-line 
from the distant Black Loch, and look at a trap 
set for a glead, a mist overtook him on the 
moor on his homeward way, with an eel as 
long as himself hanging over his shoulder, and 
held him prisoner for many hours within its 
shifting walls, frail indeed, and opposing no 
resistance to the hand, yet impenetrable to the 
feet of fear as the stone dungeon's thraldom. 
If the mist had remained, that would have 
been nothing ; only a still cold wet seat on a 
stone ; but as " a trot becomes a gallop soon, 
in spite of curb and rein," so a Scotch mist 
becomes a shower — and a shower a flood — 
and a flood a storm — and a storm a tempest — 
and a tempest thunder and lightning — and 
thunder and lightning heaven-quake and 
earth-quake — till the heart of poor wee Kit 
quaked, and almost died within him in the 
desert. In this age of Confessions, need we 
be ashamed to own, in the face of the whole 
world, that we sat us down and cried ! The 
small brown Moorland bird, as dry as a toast, 
hopped out of his heather-hole, and cheerfully 
cheeped comfort. With crest just a thought 
lowered by the rain, the green-backed, white- 
breasted peaseweep, walked close by us in the 
mist; and sight of wonder, that made even in 
that quandary by the quagmire our heart beat 
with joy — lo ! never seen before, and seldom 
since, three wee peaseweeps, not three days 
old, little bigger than shrew-mice, all covered 
with blackish down, interspersed with long 
C 



26 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



white hair, running after their mother! But 
the large hazel eye of the she peaseweep, rest- 
less even in the most utter solitude, soon 
spied us glowering at her, and her young ones, 
tli rough our tears ; and not for a moment 
doubting — Heaven forgive her for the shrewd 
but cruel suspicion ! — that we were Lord Eg- 
linton's gamekeeper — with a sudden shrill cry 
that thrilled to the marrow in our cold back- 
bone — flapped and fluttered herself away into 
the mist, while the little black bits of down 
disappeared, like devils, into the moss. The 
croaking of the frogs grew terrible. And 
worse and worse, close at hand, seeking 
his lost cows through the mist, the bellow 
of the notorious red bull ! We began saying 
our prayers ; and just then the sun forced 
himself out into the open day, and, like 
the sudden opening of the shutters of a room, 
the whole world was filled with light. The 
frogs seemed to sink among the pow-heads — 
as for the red bull who had tossed the tinker, 
he was cantering away, with his tail towards 
us, to a lot of cows on the hill ; and hark — a 
long, a loud, an oft-repeated halloo ! Rab Ro- 
ger, honest fellow, and Leezy Muir, honest 
lass, from the manse, in search of our dead 
body ! Rab pulls our ears lightly, and Leezy 
kisses us from the one to the other — wrings 
the rain out of our long yellow hajr — (a pretty 
contrast to the small gray sprig now on the 
crown of our pericranium, and the thin tail 
a-cock behind) — and by and by stepping into 
Hazel-Deanhead for a drap and a " chitterin' 
piece," by the time we reach the manse we are 
as dry as a whistle — take our scold and our 
pawmies from the minister — and, by way of 
punishment and penance, after a little hot 
whisky toddy, with brown sugar and a bit of 
bun, are bundled off to bed in the daytime! 

Thus we grew up a Fowler, ere a loaded 
gun was in our hand — and often guided the 
city-fowler to the haunts of the curlew, the 
plover, the moorfowl, and the falcon. The 
falcon ! yes — in the higher region of clouds 
and cliffs. For now we had shot up into a 
stripling — and how fast had we so shot up 
you may know, by taking notice of the school- 
boy on the play-green, and two years after- 
wards discovering, perhaps, that he is that 
fine tall ensign carrying the colours among 
the light-bobs of the regiment, to the sound of 
clarion and flute, cymbal and great drum, 
marching into the city a thousand strong. 

We used in early boyhood, deceived by 
some uncertainty in size, not to distinguish 
between a kite and a buzzard, which was very 
stupid, and unlike us— more like Poietes in 
Salmonia. The flight of the buzzard, as may 
be seen in Selby, is slow — and except during 
the season of incubation, when it often soars 
to a considerable height, it seldom remains 
long on the wing. It is indeed a heavy, inac- 
tive bird, both in disposition and appearance, 
and is generally seen perched upon some old 
and decayed tree, such being its favourite 
haunt. Him we soon thought little or nothing 
about — and the last one we shot, it was, we 
remember, just as he was coming out of the 
deserted nest of a crow, which he had taken 
possession of out of pure laziness; and we 



killed him for not building a house of his own 
in a countiy where there was no want of 
sticks. But the kite or glead, as the same dis- 
tinguished ornithologist rightly says, is pro- 
verbial for the ease and gracefulness of its 
flight, which generally consists of large and 
sweeping circles, performed with a motionless 
wing, or at least with a slight and almost im- 
perceptible stroke of its pinions, and at very 
distant intervals. In this manner, and direct- 
ing its course by its tail, which acts as a rud- 
der, whose slightest motion produces effect, it 
frequently soars to such a height as to become 
almost invisible to the human eye. Him we 
loved to slay, as a bird worthy of our barrel. 
Him and her have we watched for days, like 
a lynx, till we were led, almost as if by an 
instinct, to their nest in the heart of the forest 
— a nest lined with wool, hair, and other. soft 
materials, in the fork of some large tree. 
They will not, of course, utterly forsake their 
nest, when they have young, fire at them as 
you will, though they become more wary, and 
seem as if they heard a leaf fall, so suddenly 
will they start and soar to heaven. We re- 
member, from an ambuscade in a briery dell 
in the forest, shooting one flying overhead to 
its nest ; and, on going up to him as he lay on 
his back, with clenched talons and fierce eyes, 
absolutely shrieking and yelling with fear, and 
rage, and pain, we intended to spare his life, 
and. only take him prisoner, when we beheld 
beside him on the sc4, a chicken from the 
brood of famous ginger piles, then, all but his 
small self, following the feet of their clucking 
mother at the manse! With visage all in- 
flamed, we gave him the butt on his double 
organ of destructiveness, then only known to 
us by the popular name of " back o' the head," 
exclaiming 

" Pallas te hoc vulnere, Pallas 
Immolat" 

Quivered every feather, from beak to tail and 
talon, in his last convulsion, 
" Vitaque cum gemitu fugit indignata sub umbras !" 

In the season of love what combats have 
we been witness to — Umpire — between birds 
of prey ! The Female Falcon, she sat aloof 
like a sultana, in her soft, sleek, glossy plumes, 
the iris in her eye of wilder, more piercing, 
fiery, cruel, fascinating, and maddening lustre, 
than ever lit the face of the haughtiest human 
queen, adored by princes on her throne of dia- 
monds. And now her whole plumage shivers 
— and is ruffled — for her own Gentle Peregrine 
appears, and they two will enjoy their dalli- 
ance on the edge of the cliff-chasm — and the 
Bride shall become a wife in that stormy sun- 
shine on the loftiest precipice of all these our 
Alps. But a sudden sugh sweeps down from 
heaven, and a rival Hawk comes rushing in 
his rage from his widowed eyry, and will win 
and wear this his second selected bride — for 
her sake, tearing, or to be torn, to pieces. 
Both struck down from heaven, fall a hundred 
fathom to the heather, talon-locked, in the mu- 
tual gripe of death. Fair play, gentlemen, and 
attend to the Umpire. It is, we unde .stand, to 
be an up-and-down fight. * Allow us to disen 
tangle you — and without giving advantage to 



CHRISTOPHER IN HIS SPORTING JACKET. 



27 



either — elbow-room to both. Neither of you 
ever saw a human face so near before — nor 
ever were captive in a human hand. Both 
fasten their momentarily frightened eyes on 
us, and, holding back their heads, emit a wild 
ringing cry. But now they catch sight of each 
other, and in an instant are one bunch of 
torn, bloody plumes. Perhaps their wings are 
broken, and they can soar no more — so up- we 
fling them both into the air — and wheeling 
each within a short circle, clash again go both 
birds together, and the talons keep tearing 
throats till they die. Let them die, then, for 
both are for ever disabled to enjoy their lady- 
love. She, like some peerless flower in the 
days of chivalry at a fatal tournament, seeing 
her rival lovers dying for her sake, nor ever 
to wear her glove or scarf in the front of bat- 
tle, rising to leave her canopy in tears of grief 
and pride — even like such Angelica, the Fal- 
con unfolds her wings, and flies slowly away 
from her dying ravishers, to bewail her vir- 
ginity on the mountains. " Frailty ! thy 
name is woman !" A third Lover is already 
on the wing, more fortunate than his preced- 
ing peers — and Angelica is won, woo'd, and 
sitting, about to lay an egg in an old eyry, 
soon repaired and furbished up for the honey- 
week, with a number of small birds lying on 
the edge of the hymeneal couch, with which, 
when wearied with love, and yawp with hun- 
ger, Angelica may cram her maw. till she be 
ready to burst, by her bridegroom's breast. 

Forgotten all human dwellings, and all the 
thoughts and feelings that abide by firesides, 
and doorways, and rooms, and roofs — delight- 
ful was it, during the long, long midsummer 
holyday, to lie all alone, on the green-sward 
of some moor-surrounded mount, not far from 
the foot of some range of cliffs, and with our 
face up to the sky, wait, unwearying, till a 
speck was seen to cross the blue cloudless 
lift, and steadying itself after a minute's qui- 
vering into motionless rest, as if hung sus- 
pended there by the counteracting attraction 
of heaven and earth, known to be a Falcon ! 
Balanced far above its prey, and, soon as the 
right moment came, ready to pounce down, 
and fly away with the treasure in its talons to 
its crying eyry ! If no such speck were for 
hours visible in the ether, doubtless dream 
upon dream, rising unbidden, and all of their 
own wild accord, congenial with the wilder- 
ness, did, like phantasmagoria, pass to and 
fro, backwards and forwards, along the dark- 
ened curtain of our imagination, all the lights 
of reason being extinguished or removed ! In 
that trance, not unheard, although scarcely 
noticed, was the cry of the curlew, the murmur 
of the little moorland burn, or the din, almost 
like dashing, of the far-off loch. 'Twas thus 
that the senses, in their most languid state, 
ministered to the fancy, and fed her for a fu- 
ture day, when all the imagery then received 
so imperfectly, and in broken fragments, into 
her mysterious keeping, was to arise in order- 
ly array, and to form a world more lovely and 
more romantic even than the reality, which 
then lay hushed or whispering, glittering or 
gloomy, in the outward air. For the senses 
hear and see all things in their seeming slum- 



bers, from all the impulses that come to them 
in solitude gaining more, far more than they 
have lost ! When we are awake, or ha i lf 
awake, or almost sunk into a sleep, they are 
ceaselessly gathering materials for the think- 
ing and feeling soul — and it is hers, in a deep 
delight formed of memory and imagination, to 
put them together by a divine plastic power, 
in which she is almost, as it were, a very cre- 
ator, till she exult to look on beauty and on 
grandeur such as this earth and these heavens 
never saw, products of her own immortal and 
immaterial energies, and beixg once, to be for 
ever, when the universe, with all its suns and 
systems, is no more ! 

But oftener we and our shadows glided along 
the gloom at the foot of the cliffs, ear-led by the 
incessant cry of the young hawks in their nest, 
ever hungry except when asleep. Left to 
themselves, when the old birds are hunting, 
an hour's want of food is felt to be famine, and 
you hear the cry of the callow creatures, angry 
with one another, and it may be, fighting with 
soft beak and pointless claws, till a living 
lump of down tumbles over the rock-ledge, 
soon to be picked to the bone by insects, who 
likewise all live upon prey ; for example, Ants 
of carrion. Get you behind that briery bield, 
that wild-rose hanging rock, far and wide 
scenting the wilderness with a faint perfume ; 
or into that cell, almost a parlour, with a Gothic 
roof formed by large stones leaning one against 
the other and so arrested, as they tumbled from 
the frost-riven breast of the precipice. Wait 
there, though it should be for hours — but it 
will not be for hours ; for both the old hawks 
are circling the sky, one over the marsh and 
one over the wood. She comes — she comes— 
the female Sparrowhawk, twice the size of her 
mate ; and while he is plain in his dress, as a 
cunning and cruel Quaker, she is gay and 
gaudy as a Demirep dressed for the pit of the 
Opera — deep and broad her bosom, with an 
air of luxury in her eyes that glitter like a 
serpent's. But now she is a mother, and plays 
a mother's part — greedier, even than for her- 
self, for her greedy young. The lightning 
flashes from the cave-mouth, and she comes 
tumbling, and dashing, and rattling through 
the dwarf bushes on the cliff-face, perpendicu- 
lar and plumb-down, within three yards of her 
murderer. Her husband will not visit his nest 
this day — no — nor all night long ; for a father's 
is not as a mother's love. Your only chance 
of killing him, too, is to take a lynx-eyed cir- 
cuit round about all the moors within half a 
league ; and possibly you may see him sitting 
on some cairn, or stone, or tree-stump, afraid 
to fly either hither or thither, perplexed by the 
sudden death he saw appearing among the un- 
accountable smoke, scenting it yet with his 
fine nostrils, so as to be unwary of your ap- 
proach. Hazard a long shot-r-for you are right 
behind him — and a slug may hit him on the 
head, and, following the feathers, split his 
skull-cap and scatter his brains. 'Tis done — 
and the eyry is orphan'd. Let the small brown 
moorland birds twitter Io Pean, as they hang 
balanced on the bulrushes — let the stone-chat 
glance less fearfully within shelter of the old 
gray cairn — let the cushat coo his joyous grati 



28 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



tude in the wood — and the lark soar up to hea- 
ven, afraid no more of a demon descending 
from the cloud. As for the imps in the eyry, 
let them die of rage and hunger — for there 
must always be pain in the world ; and 'tis 
well when its endurance by the savage is the 
cause of pleasure to the sweet — when the gore- 
yearning cry of the cruel is drowned in the 
song of the kind at feed or play — and the 
tribes of the peace-loving rejoice in the des- 
pair and death of the robbers and shedders of 
blood! 

Not one fowler of fifty thousand has in all 
his days shot an Eagle. That royal race seems 
nearly extinct in Scotland. Gaze as you will 
over the wide circumference of a Highland 
heaven, calm as the bride's dream of love, or 
disturbed as the shipwrecked sailor's vision of 
a storm, and all spring and summer long you 
may not chance to see the shadow of an Eagle 
in the sun. The old kings of the air are some- 
times yet seen by the shepherds on cliff or be- 
neath cloud; but their offspring are rarely 
allowed to get full fledged in spite of the rifle 
always lying loaded in the shieling. But in 
the days of our boyhood there were many glori- 
ous things on earth and air that now no more 
seem to exist, and among these were the 
Eagles. One pair had from time immemorial 
built on the Echo-cliff, and you could see with 
a telescope the eyry, with the rim of its cir- 
cumference, six feet ' in diameter, strewn with 
partridges, moorfowl, and leverets — their 
feathers and their skeletons. But the Echo- 
cliff was inaccessible. 

" Hither the rainbow comes, the cloud, 
And mists that spread the flying shroud, 
And sunbeams, and the flying blast, 
That if it could, would hurry past, 
But that enormous barrier binds it fast." 

No human eye ever saw the birds within a 
thousand feet of the lower earth ; yet how 
often must they have stooped down on lamb 
and leveret, and struck the cushat in her very 
yew-tree in the centre of the wood ! Perhaps 
they preyed at midnight, by the light of the 
waning moon — at mid-day, in the night of 
sun-hiding tempests — or afar off, in even more 
solitary wilds, carried thither on the whirlwind 
of their own wings, they swept off their prey 
from uninhabited isles, 

" Placed far amid the melancholy main," 

or vast inland glens, where not a summer 
shieling smiles beneath the region of eternal 
snows. But eagles are subject to diseases in 
flesh, and bone, and blood, just like the veriest 
poultry that die of croup and consumption on 
the dunghill before the byre-door. Sickness 
blinds the eye that God framed to pierce the 
eas, and weakens the wing that dallies with 
the tempest. Then the eagle feels how vain 
is the doctrine of the divine right of kings. 
He is hawked at 'by the mousing owl, whose 
instinct instructs him that these talons have 
lost their grasp, and these pinions their death- 
blow. The eagle lies for weeks famished in 
his eyry, and hunger-driven over the ledge, 
*eaves it to ascend no more. He is dethroned, 
and wasted to mere bones — a bunch of feathers 
— his flight is now slower than that of the 
Duzzard- — he floats himself along now with 



difficulty from knoll to knoll, pursued by the 
shrieking magpies, buffeted by the corby, and 
lying on his back, like a recreant, before the 
beak of the raven, who, a month ago, was ter- 
rified to hop round the carcass till the king of 
the air was satiated, and gave his permission 
to croaking Sooty to dig into the bowels he 
himself had scorned. Yet he is a noble aim 
to the fowler still; you break a wing and a 
leg, but fear to touch him with your hand ; 
Fro feels the iron-clutch of his talons con- 
stricted in the death-pang; and holding him 
up, you wonder that such an anatomy — for his 
weight is not more than three pounds — could 
drive his claws through that shaggy hide till 
blood sprung to the blow — inextricable but to 
yells of pain, and leaving gashes hard to heal, 
for virulent is the poison of rage in a dying 
bird of prey. 

Sublime solitude of our boyhood! where 
each stone in the desert was sublime, unasso- 
ciated though it was with dreams of memory, 
in its own simple native power over the human 
heart ! Each sudden breath of wind passed 
by us like the voice of a spirit. There were 
strange meanings in the clouds — often so like 
human forms and faces threatening us off, or 
beckoning us on, with long black arms, back 
into the long- withdrawing wilderness of hea- 
ven. We wished then, with quaking bosoms, 
that we had not been all alone in the desert — 
that there had been another heart, whose beat- 
ings might have kept time with our own, that 
we might have gathered courage in the silent 
and sullen gloom from the light in a brother's 
eye — the smile on a brother's countenance. 
And often had we such a friend in these our 
far-off wanderings over moors and mountains, 
by the edge of lochs, and through the umbrage 
of the old pine woods. A friend from whom 
"we had received his heart, and given him 
back our own," — such a friendship as the most 
fortunate and the most happy — and at that 
time we were both — are sometimes permitted 
by Providence, with all the passionate devo- 
tion of young and untamed imagination, to 
enjoy, during a bright dreamy world of which 
that friendship is as the Polar star. Emilius 
Godfrey ! for ever holy be the name ! a boy 
when we were but a child — when we were but 
a youth, a man. We felt stronger in the sha- 
dow of his arm — happier, bolder, better in the 
light of his countenance. He was the pro- 
tector — the guardian of our moral being. In 
our pastimes we bounded with wilder glee — at 
our studies we sat with intenser earnestness, 
by his side. He it was that taught us how to 
feel all those glorious sunsets, and embued our 
young spirit with the love and worship of na- 
ture. He it was that taught us to feel that our 
evening prayer was no idle ceremony to be 
hastily gone through — that we might lay down 
our head on the pillow, then soon smoothed in 
sleep, but a command of God, which a response 
from nature summoned the humble heart to 
obey. He it was who for ever had at com- 
mand wit for the sportive, wisdom for the se- 
rious hour. Fun and frolic flowed in the merry 
music of his lips — they lightened from the gay 
glancing of his eyes — and then, all at once, 
when the one changed its measures, and the 



CHRISTOPHER IN HIS SPORTING JACKET. 



other gathered, as it were, a mist or a cloud, 
an answering sympathy chained our own 
tongue, and darkened our own countenance, in 
intercommunion of spirit felt to be indeed 
divine ! It seemed as if we knew but the 
words of language — that he was a scholar who 
saw into their very essence. The books we 
read together were, every page, and every sen- 
tence of every page, all covered over with 
light. Where his eye fell not as we read, all 
was dim or dark, unintelligible or with imper- 
fect meanings. Whether we perused with him 
a volume writ by a nature like our own, or the 
volume of the earth and the sky, or the volume 
revealed from Heaven, next day Ave always 
knew and felt that something had been added 
to our being. Thus imperceptibly we grew 
up in our intellectual stature, breathing a purer 
moral and religious air, with all our finer 
affections towards other human beings, all our 
kindred and our kind, touched with a dearer 
domestic tenderness, or with a sweet benevo- 
lence that seemed to our ardent fancy to em- 
brace the dwellers in the uttermost regions of 
the earth. No secret of pleasure or pain — of 
joy or grief — of fear or hope — had our heart 
to withhold or conceal from Emilius Godfrey. 
He saw it as it beat within our bosom, with all 
its imperfections — may we venture to say, with 
all its virtues. A repented folly — a confessed 
fault — a sin for which we were truly contrite 
— a vice flung from us with loathing and with 
shame — in such moods as these, happier were 
we to see his serious and his solemn smile, 
than when in mirth and merriment we sat by 
his side in the social hour on a knoll in the 
open sunshine, and the whole school were in 
ecstasies to hear tales and stories from his 
genius, even like a flock of birds chirping in 
their joy all newly-alighted in a vernal land. 
In spite of that difference in our years — or oh ! 
say rather because that very difference did 
touch the one heart with tenderness and the 
other with reverence, how often did we two 
wander, like elder and younger brother, in the 
sunlight and the moonlight solitudes ! Woods 
— into whose inmost recesses we should have 
quaked alone to penetrate, in his company 
were glad as gardens, through their most 
awful umbrage ; and there was beauty in the 
shadows of the old oaks. Cataracts — in whose 
lonesome thunder, as it pealed into those 
pitchy pools, we durst not by ourselves have 
faced the spray — in his presence, dinn'd with 
a merry music in the desert, and cheerful was 
the thin mist they cast sparkling up into the 
air. Too severe for our uncompanioned spirit, 
then easily overcome with awe, was the soli- 
tude of those remote inland lochs. But as we 
walked with him along the winding shores, 
how passing sweet the calm of both blue 
depths — how magnificent the white-crested 
waves tumbling beneath the black thunder- 
cloud! More beautiful, because our eyes gazed 
on it along with his, at the beginning or the 
ending of some sudden storm, the Apparition 
of the Rainbow ! Grander in its wildness, 
that seemed to sweep at once all the swinging 
and stooping woods, to our ear, because his 
too listened, the concerto by winds and waves 
played at midnight, when not one star was in 



the sky. With him we first followed the Fal- 
con in her flight — he showed us on the Echo- 
cliff* the Eagle's eyry. To the thicket he led 
us where lay couched the lovely-spotted Doe, 
or showed us the mild-eyed creature browsing 
on the glade with her two fawns at her side. 
But for him we should not then have seen the 
antlers of the red-deer, for the Forest was 
indeed a most savage place, and haunted — 
such was the superstition, at which they who 
scorned it trembled — haunted by the ghost of 
a huntsman whom a jealous rival had mur- 
dered as he stooped, after the chase, at a little 
mountain well that ever since oozed out blood. 
What converse passed between us two in all 
those still shadowy solitudes ! Into what 
depths of human nature did he teach our won- 
dering eyes to look down ! Oh ! what was to 
become of us, we sometimes thought in sad- 
ness that all at once made our spirits sink — 
like a lark falling suddenly to earth, struck by 
the fear of some unwonted shadow from above 
— what was to become of us when the man- 
date should arrive for him to leave the Manse 
for ever, and sail away in a ship to India never 
more to return ! Ever as that dreaded day 
drew nearer, more frequent was the haze in 
our eyes; and in our blindness, we knew not 
that such tears ought to have been far more 
rueful still, for that he then lay under orders 
for a longer and more lamentable voyage — a 
voyage over a narrow streight to the eternal 
shore. All — all at once he drooped ; on one 
fatal morning the dread decay began — with no 
forewarning, the springs on which his being 
had so lightly — so proudly — so grandly moved, 
gave way. Between one Sabbath and another 
his bright eyes darkened — and while all the 
people were assembled at the sacrament, the 
soul of Emilius Godfrey soared up to Heaven. 
It was indeed a dreadful death, serene and 
sainted though it were — and not a hall — not a 
house — not a hut — not a shieling within all the 
circle of those wide mountains, that did not on 
that night mourn as if it had lost a son. All 
the vast parish attended his funeral — Low- 
landers and Highlanders in their own garb of 
grief. And have time and tempest now black- 
ened the white marble of that monument — is 
that inscription now hard to be read — the name 
of Emilius Godfrey in green obliteration — nor 
haply one surviving who ever saw the light 
of the countenance of him there interred ! 
Forgotten as if he had never been ! for few 
were that glorious orphan's kindred — and they 
lived in a foreign land — forgotten but by one 
heart, faithful through all the chances and 
changes of this restless world ! And therein 
enshrined among all its holiest remembrances, 
shall be the image of Emilius Godfrey, till it 
too, like his, shall be but dust and ashes ! 

Oh ! blame not boys for so soon forgetting 
one another — in absence or in death. Y et for- 
getting is not just the very word ; call it rather 
a reconcilement to doom and destiny — in thus 
obeying a benign law of nature that soon 
streams sunshine over the shadows of the 
grave. Not otherwise could all the ongoings 
of this world be continued. The nascent spirit 
outgrows much in which it once found all de- 
light; and thoughts delightful still, thoughts 
c 2 



30 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



of the faces and the voices of the dead, perish 
not, lying sometimes in slumber — sometimes 
in sleep. It belongs not to the blessed season 
and genius of youth, to hug to its heart useless 
and unavailing griefs. Images of the well- 
beloved, when they themselves are in the 
mould, come and go, no unfrequent visitants, 
through the meditative hush of solitude. But 
our main business — our prime joys and our 
prime sorrows — ought to be — must be with the 
living. Duty demands it; and Love, who 
would pine to death over the bones of the dead, 
soon fastens upon other objects with eyes and 
voices to smile and whisper an answer to all 
his vows. So was it with us. Ere the mid- 
summer sun had withered the flowers that 
spring had sprinkled over our Godfrey's grave, 
youth vindicated its own right to happiness ; 
and we felt that we did wrong to visit too often 
that corner in the kirkyard. No fears had we 
of any too oblivious tendencies ; in our dreams 
we saw him — most often all alive as ever — 
sometimes a phantom away from that grave ! 
If the morning light was frequently hard to be 
endured, bursting suddenly upen us along with 
the feeling that he was dead, it more frequent- 
ly cheered and gladdened us with resignation, 
and sent us forth a fit playmate to the dawn 
that rang with all sounds of J03''. Again we 
found ourselves angling down the river, or 
along the loch — once more following the flight 
of the Falcon along the woods — eying the 
Eagle on the Echo-Cliff. Days passed by, with- 
out so much as one thought of Emilius God- 
frey — pursuing our pastime with all our pas- 
sion, reading our books intently — just as if he 
had never been ! But often and often, too, we 
thought we saw his figure coming down the 
hill straight towards us — his very figure — we 
could not be deceived — but the love-raised 
ghost disappeared on a sudden — the grief- 
woven spectre melted into the mist. The 
strength, that formerly had come from his 
counsels, now began to grow up of itself with- 
in our own unassisted being. The world of 
nature became more our own, moulded and 
modified by all our own feelings and fancies ; 
and with a bolder and more" original eye we 
saw the smoke from the sprinkled cottages, 
and read the faces of the mountaineers on 
their way to their work, or coming and going 
to the house of God. 

Then this was to be our last year in the 
parish — now dear to us as our birth-place ; 
nay, itself our very birth-place — for in it from 
the darkness of infancy had our soul been 
born. Once gone and away from the region 
of cloud and mountain, we felt that most pro- 
bably never more should we return. For 
others, who thought they knew us better than 
we did ourselves, had chalked out a future 
life for young Christopher North — a life that 
was sure to lead to honour, and riches, and a 
splendid name. Therefore we determined 
with a strong, resolute, insatiate spirit of pas- 
sion, to make the most — the best — of the few 
months that remained to us, of thai our wild, 
free, and romantic existence, as yet untram- 
melled by those inexorable laws, which, once 
launched into the world, all alike — young and 
old — must obey. Our books were flung aside — 



nor did our old master and minister frown— 
for he grudged not to the boy he loved the 
remnant of the dream about to be rolled away 
like the dawn's rosy clouds. We demanded 
with our eye — not with our voice — one long 
holyday, throughout that our last autumn, on 
to the pale farewell blossoms of the Christ- 
mas rose. With our rod we went earlier to 
the loch or river ; but we had not known tho- 
roughly our own soul — for now we angled less 
passionately — less perseveringly than was our 
wont of yore — sitting in a pensive — a melan- 
choly — a miserable dream, by the dashing 
waterfall or the murmuring wave. With our 
gun we plunged earlier in the morning into 
the forest, and we returned later at eve — but 
less earnest — less eager were we to hear the 
cushat's moan from his yew-tree — to see the 
hawk's shadow on the glade, as he hung aloft 
on the sky. A thousand dead thoughts came 
to life again in the gloom of the woods — and 
we sometimes did wring our hands in an 
agony of grief, to know that our eyes should 
not behold the birch-tree brightening there 
with another spring. 

Then every visit we paid to cottage or to 
shieling was felt to be a farewell; there was 
something mournful in the smiles on the sweet 
faces of the ruddy rustics, with their silken 
snoods, to whom we, used to whisper harmless 
love-meanings, in which there was no evil 
guile; we regarded the solemn toil-and-care- 
worn countenances of the old with a profounder 
emotion than had ever touched our hearts in 
the hour of our more thoughtless joy; and the 
whole life of those dwellers among the woods, 
and the moors, and the mountains, seemed to 
us far more affecting now that we saw deeper 
into it, in the light of a melancholy sprung 
from the conviction that the time was close at 
hand when we should mingle with it no more. 
The thoughts that possessed our most secret 
bosom failed not by the least observant to be 
discovered in our open eyes. They who had 
liked us before, now loved us; our faults, our 
follies, the insolencies of our reckless boy- 
hood, were all forgotten ; whatever had been 
our sins, pride towards the poor was never 
among the number; we had shunned not 
stooping our head beneath the humblest lintel; 
our mite had been given to the widow who had 
lost her own ; quarrelsome with the young we 
might sometimes have been, for boyblood is 
soon heated, and boils before a defying eye ; 
but in one thing at least we were Spartans, we 
revered the head of old age. 

And many at least were the kind — some the 
sad farewells, ere long whispered by us at 
gloaming among the glens. Let them rest for 
ever silent amidst that music in the memory 
which is felt, not heard — its blessing mute 
though breathing, like an inarticulate prayer ! 
But to Thee — O palest Phantom — clothed in 
white raiment, not like unto a ghost risen with 
its grave-clothes to appal, but like a seraph 
descending from the skies to bless — unto Thee 
will we dare to speak, as through the mist of 
years back comes thy yet unfaded beauty, 
charming us, while we cannot choose but weep 
with the selfsame vision that often glided before 
us long ago in the wilderness, and at the sound 



CHRISTOPHER IN HIS SPORTING JACKET. 



31 



*f our voice would pause for a little while, and 

then pass by, like a white bird from the sea, 

floating unscared close by the shepherd's head, 

or alighting to trim its plumes on a knoll far 

up an inland glen ! Death seems not to have 

touched that face, pale though it be— lifelike is 

the waving of those gentle hands— and the 

soft, sweet, low music which now we hear, 

steals not sure from lips hushed by the burial 

mould ! Restored by the power of love, she 

stands before us as she stood of yore. Not 

one of all the hairs of her golden head was 

singed by the lightning that shivered the tree 

under which the child had run for shelter from 

the flashing sky. But in a moment the blue 

light in her dewy eyes was dimmed — and 

never again did she behold either flower or 

star. Yet all the images of all the things she 

had loved remained in her memory, clear and 

distinct as the things themselves before unex 

tinguished eyes — and ere three summers had 

flown over her head, which, like the blossom 

of some fair perennial flower, in heaven's 

gracious dew and sunshine each season lifted 

its loveliness higher and higher in the light — 

she could trip her singing way through the 

wide wilderness, all by her joyful self, led, as 

all believed, nor erred they in so believing, by 

an angel's hand ! When the primroses peeped 

through the reviving grass upon the vernal 

braes, they seemed to give themselves into her 

fingers ; and 'twas thought they hung longer 

unfaded round her neck or forehead than if 

they had been left to drink the dew on their 

native bed. The linnets ceased not their lays, 

though her garment touched the broom-stalk 

on which they sang. The cushat, as she thrid 

her way through the wood, continued to croon 

in her darksome tree— and the lark, although 

just dropped from the cloud, was cheered by 

her presence into a new passion of song, and 

mounted over her head, as if it were his first 

matin hymn. All the creatures of the earth 

and air manifestly loved the Wanderer of the 

Wilderness — and as for human beings, she 

was named, in their pity, their wonder, and 

their delight, the Blind Beauty of the Moor ! 

She was an only child, and her mother had 
died in giving her birth. And now her father, 
stricken by one of the many cruel diseases 
that shorten the lives of shepherds on the hills, 
was bed-ridden — and he was poor. Of all 
words ever syllabled by human lips, the most 
blessed is— Charity. No manna now in the 
wilderness is rained from heaven— for the 
mouths of the hungry need it not in this our 
Christian land. A few goats feeding among 
the rocks gave them milk, and there was bread 
for them in each neighbour's house— neighbour 
though miles afar — as the sacred duty came 
round — and the unrepining poor sent the grate- 
ful child away with their prayers. 

One evening, returning to the hut with her 
usual song, she danced up to her father's face 
on his rushy bed, and it was cold in death. If 
she shrieked— if she fainted— there was but 
one Ear that heard, one Eye that saw her in 
her swoon. Not now floating light like a 
small moving cloud unwilling to leave the 
flowery braes, though it be to melt in heaven, 
b&t driven along like a shroud of flying mist 



before the tempest, she came upon us in the 
midst of that dreary moss ; and at the sound 
of our voice, fell down with clasped hands at 
our feet — "My father's dead!" Had the hut 
put already on the strange, dim, desolate look 
of mortality 1 For people came walking fast 
down the braes, and in a little while there was 
a group round us, and we bore her back again 
to her dwelling in our arms. As for us, we 
had been on our way to bid the fair creature 
and her father farewell. How could she have 
lived — an utter orphan — in such a world ! 
The holy power that is in Innocence would for 
ever have remained with her; but Innocence 
longs to be away when her sister Joy has de- 
parted ; and it is sorrowful to see the one on 
earth, when . the other has gone to Heaven ! 
This sorrow none of us had long to see ; for 
though a flower, when withered at the root, and 
doomed ere eve to perish, may yet look to the 
careless eye the same as when it blossomed in 
its pride — yet its leaves, still green, are not as 
once they were — its bloom, though fair, is 
faded — and at set of sun, the dews shall find it 
in decay, and fall unfelt on its petals. Ere 
Sabbath came, the orphan child was dead. 
Methinks we see now her little funeral. Her 
birth had been the humbles^ of the humble; 
and though all in life had loved her, it was 
thought best that none should be asked to the 
funeral of her and her father but two or three 
friends ; the old clergyman himself walked at 
the head of the father's coffin — we at the head 
of the daughter's — for this was granted unto 
our exceeding love; — and thus passed away 
for ever the Blind Beauty of the Moor ! 

Yet sometimes to a more desperate passion 
than had ever before driven us over the wilds, 
did we deliver up ourselves entire, and pursue 
our pastime like one doomed to be a wild 
huntsman under some spell of magic. Let us, 
ere we go away from these high haunts and be 
no more seen — let us away far up the Great 
Glen, beyond the Echo-Cliff, and with our rifle 
— 'twas once the rifle of Emilius Godfrey — let 
us stalk the red-deer. In that chase or forest 
the antlers lay not thick as now they lie on the 
Athole Braes ; they were still a rare sight— 
and often and often had Godfrey and we gone 
up and down the Glen, without a single glimpse 
of buck or doe rising up from among the hea- 
ther. But as the true angler will try every 
cast on the river, miles up and down, if he has 
reason to know that but one single fish has run 
up from the sea — so we, a true hunter, neither 
grudged nor wearied to stand for hours, still as 
the heron by the stream, hardly in hope, but 
satisfied with the possibility, that a deer might 
pass by us in the desert. Steadiest and strong- 
est is self-fed passion springing in spite of cir- 
cumstance. When blows the warm showery 
south-west wind, the trouts turn up their yellow 
sides at every dropping of the fly upon the curl 
ing water — and the angler is soon sated with 
the perpetual play. But once — twice — thrice 
during a long blusteripg day — the sullen 
plunge of a salmon is sufficient for that day's 
joy. Still, therefore, still as a cairn that stands 
for ever on the hill, or rather as the shadow on 
a dial, that though it movies is never seen to 
move, day after day were we on our station in 



32 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



the Great Glen. A 'oud, wild, wrathful, and 
savage cry from some huge animal, made our 
heart leap to our mouth, and bathed our fore- 
head in sweat. We looked up — and a red- 
deer — a stag of ten — the king of the forest — 
stood with all his antlers, snuffing the wind, 
but yet blind to our figure overshadowed by a 
rock. The rifle-ball pierced his heart— and 
leaping up far higher than our head, he tum- 
bled in terrific death, and lay stone-still before 
our starting eyes -amid the rustling of the 
strong-bented heather! There we stood sur- 
veying him for a long triumphing hour. 
Ghastly were his glazed eyes — and ghastlier 
his long bloody tongue, bitten through at the 
very root in agony. The branches of his ant- 
lers pierced the sward like swords. His bulk 
seemed mightier in death even than when it 
was crowned with that kingly head, snuffing 
the north wind. In other two hours we were 
down at Moor-edge and up again, with an 
eager train, to the head of the Great Glen, 
coming and going a distance of a dozen long 
miles. A hay-wagon forced its way through 
the bogs and over the braes — and on our return 
into the inhabited country, we were met by 
shoals of peasants, men, women, and children, 
huzzaing over the Prey ; for not for many years 
— never since the funeral of the old lord— had 
the antlers of a red-deer been seen by them 
trailing along the heather. 

Fifty years and more — and oh ! my weary 
soul ! half a century took a long long time to 
die away, in gloom and in glory, in pain and 
pleasure, in storms through which were afraid 
to fly even the spirit's most eagle-winged rap- 
tures, in calms that rocked all her feelings like 
azure-plumed halcyons to rest — though now to 
look back upon it, what seems it all but a 
transitory dream of toil and trouble, of which 
the smiles, the sighs, the tears, the groans, 
were all alike vain as the forgotten sunbeams 
and the clouds ! Fifty years and more are 
gone — and this is the Twelfth of August, 
Eighteen hundred and twenty-eight; and all 
the Highland mountains have since dawn been 
astir, and thundering to the impetuous sports- 
men's joys ! Our spirit burns within us, but 
our limbs are palsied, and our feet must brush 
the heather no more. Lo ! how beautifully 
these fast-travelling pointers do their work on 
that black mountain's breast! intersecting it 
into parallelograms, and squares, and circles, 
and now all astoop on a sudden, as if frozen to 
death ! Higher up among the rocks, and cliffs, 
and stones, we see a stripling, whose ambition 
it is to strike the sky with his forehead, and 



wet his hair in the misty cloud, pursuing the 
ptarmigan, now in their variegated summer- 
dress, seen even among the unmelted snows. 
The scene shifts — and high up on the heath 
above the Linn of Dee, in the Forest of Brae- 
mar, the Thane — God bless him-^has stalked 
the red-deer to his lair, and now lays his un- 
erring rifle at rest on the stump of the Witch's 
Oak. Never shall Eld deaden our sympathies 
with the pastimes of our fellow men any more 
than with their highest raptures, their pro- 
foundest grief. Blessings on the head of every 
true sportsman on flood, or field, or fell ; nor 
shall we take it at all amiss should any one of 
them, in return for the pleasure he may have 
enjoyed from these our Fyttes, perused in 
smoky cabin during a rainy day, to the peat- 
reek flavour of the glorious Glenlivet, send us, 
by the Inverness coach, Aberdeen steam-pack- 
et, or any other rapid conveyance, a basket of 
game, red, black, or brown, or peradventure a 
haunch of the red-deer. 

Reader! be thou a male, bold as the Tercel 
Gentle — or a female, fair as the Falcon — a 
male, stern as an old Stag — or a female, soft 
as a young Doe — we entreat thee to think 
kindly of Us and of our Article — and to look 
in love or in friendship on Christopher in his 
Sporting Jacket, now come to the close of his 
Three Fyttes, into which he had fallen — out of 
one into another — and from which he has now 
been revived by the application of a little salt 
to his mouth, and then a r caulker. Nor think 
that, rambling as we have been, somewhat 
after the style of thinking common in sleep, 
there has been no method in our madness, no 
lucidus ordo in our dream. All the pages are 
instinct with one spirit — our thoughts and our 
feelings have all followed one another, ac- 
cording to the most approved principles of 
association — and a fine proportion has been 
unconsciously preserved. The article may 
be likened to some noble tree, which — al- 
though here and there a branch have somewhat 
overgrown its brother above or below it, an 
arm stretched itself owt into further gloom on 
this side than on that, so that there are irregu- 
larities in the umbrage — is still disfigured not 
by those sports and freaks of nature working 
on a great scale, and stands, magnificent ob- 
ject ! equal to an old castle, on the cliff above 
the cataract. Wo and shame to the sacrile- 
gious hand that would lop away one budding 
bough ! Undisturbed let the tame and wild 
creatures of the region, in storm or sunshine, 
find shelter or shade under the calm circum- 
ference of its green old age. 



TALE OF EXPIATION. 



TALE OF EXPIATION. 



Margaret Burxside "was an orphan. Her 
parents, who had been the poorest people in 
the parish, had died when she was a mere 
child; and. as they had left no near relatives, 
there were few or none to care much about 
the desolate creature, who might be well said 
to have been left friendless in the world. True 
that the feeling of charity is seldom wholly 
wanting in any heart; but it is generally- but a 
cold feeling among hard-working folk, towards 
objects out of the narrow circle of their own 
family affections, and selfishness has a ready 
and strong excuse in necessity. There seems, 
indeed, to be a sort of chance in the lot of the 
orphan offspring of paupers. On some the 
eye of Christian benevolence falls at the very 
first moment of their uttermost destitution — 
and their worst sorrows, instead of beginning, 
terminate with the tears shed over their pa- 
rents' graves. They are taken by the hands, 
as soon as their hands have been stretched 
out for protection, and admitted as inmates 
into households, whose doors, had their fathers 
and mothers been alive, they would never 
have darkened. The light of comfort falls 
upon them during the gloom of grief, and 
attends them all their days. Others, again, 
are overlooked at the first fall of affliction, as 
if by some unaccountable fatality ; the wretch- 
edness with which all have become familiar, 
no one very tenderly pities ; and thus the or- 
phan, reconciling herself to the extreme hard- 
ships of her condition, lives on uncheered'by 
those sympathies out of which grow both 
happiness and virtue, and yielding by degrees 
to the constant pressure of her lot, becomes 
poor in spirit as in estate, and either vegetates 
like an almost worthless weed that is care- 
lessly trodden on by every foot, or if by nature 
born a flower, in time loses her lustre, and all 
her days leads the life not so much of a ser- 
vant as of a slave. 

Such, till she was twelve years old, had been 
the fate of Margaret Burnside. Of a slender 
form and weak constitution, she had never 
been able for much work ; and thus from one 
discontented and harsh master and mistress to 
another, she had been transferred from house 
to house — always the poorest — till she came 
to be looked on as an encumbrance rather than 
a help in any family, and thought hardly worth 
her bread. Sad and sickly she sat on the braes 
herding the kine. It was supposed that she 
was in a consumption — and as the shadow of 
death seemed to lie on the neglected creature's 
face, a feeling something like love was awa- 
kened towards her in the heart of pity, for 
which she showed her gratitude by still attend- 
ing to all household tasks with an alacrity be- 
yond her strength. Few doubted that she was 
dying — and it was plain that she thought so 
herself; for the Bible, which, in her friendless- 
ness, she had always read more than other 
children who were too happy to reflect often 
on the Word of that Being from whom their 



happiness flowed, was now, when leisure per- 
mitted, seldom or never out of her hands ; and 
in lonely places, where there was no human 
ear to hearken, did the dying girl often support 
her heart, when quaking in natural fears of 
the grave, by singing to herself hymns and 
psalms. But her hour was not yet come — 
though by the inscrutable decrees of Provi- 
dence doomed to be hideous with almost inex- 
piable guilt. As for herself — she was innocent 
as the linnet that sang beside her in the broom, 
and innocent was she to be up to the last 
throbbings of her religious heart. When the 
sunshine fell on the leaves of her Bible, the 
orphan seemed to see in the holy words, 
brightening through the radiance, assurances 
of forgiveness of all her sins — small sins in- 
deed — yet to her humble and contrite heart 
exceeding great — and to be pardoned only by 
the intercession of Him who died for us on the 
tree. Often, when clouds were in the sky, and 
blackness covered the Book, hope died away 
from the discoloured page — and the lonely 
creature wept and sobbed over the doom de- 
nounced on all who sin, and repent not — 
whether in deed or in thought. And thus reli- 
gion became within her an awful thing — till, 
in her resignation, she feared to die. But look 
on that flower by the hill-side path, withered, 
as it seems, beyond the power of sun and air 
and dew and rain to restore it to life. Next 
day, you happen to return to the place, its 
leaves are of a dazzling green, its blossoms of 
a dazzling crimson. So was it with this Orphan. 
Nature, as if kindling towards her in sudden 
love, not only restored her in a few weeks to 
life — but to perfect health ; and ere-long she, 
whom few had looked at, and for whom still 
fewer cared, was acknowledged to be the fair- 
est girl in all the parish — while she continued 
to sit, as she had alwa) r s done from her very 
childhood, on the poor' 's form in the lobby of the 
kirk. Such a face, such a figure, and such a 
manner, in one so poorly attired and so meanly 
placed, attracted the eyes of the young Ladies 
in the Patron's Gallery. Margaret Burnside 
was taken under their especial protection — 
sent for two years to a superior school, where 
she was taught all things useful for persons in 
humble life — and while yet scarcely fifteen, 
returning to her native parish, was appointed 
teacher of a small school of her own, to which 
were sent all the girls who could be spared 
from home, from those of parents poor as her 
own h'ad been, up to those of the farmers and 
small proprietors, who knew the blessings of 
a good education — and that without it, the 
minister may preach in vain. And thus Mar- 
garet Burnside grew and blossomed like the 
lily of the field— and every eye blessed her — 
and she drew her breath in gratitude, piety, 
and peace. 

Thus a few happy and useful years passed 
by — and it was forgotten by all — but herself- - 
that Margaret Burnside was an orphan. But 



34 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



to be without one near and dear blood-relative 
in all the world, must often, even to the happy 
heart of youthful innocence, be more than a 
pensive — a painful thought; and therefore, 
though Margaret Burnside was always cheer- 
ful among her little scholars, yet in the retire- 
ment of her own room, (a pretty parlour, with 
a window looking into a flower-garden,) and 
on her walks among the braes, her mien was 
somewhat melancholy, and her eyes wore that 
touching expression, which seems doubtfully 
to denote — neither joy nor sadness — but a habit 
of soul which, in its tranquillity, still partakes 
of the mournful, as if memory dwelt often on 
past sorrows, and hope scarcely ventured to 
indulge in dreams of future repose. That 
profound orphan-feeling embued her whole 
character; and sometimes, when the young 
Ladies from the Castle smiled praises upon 
her, she retired in gratitude to her chamber — 
and wept. 

Among the friends at whose houses she 
visited were the family at Moorside, the high- 
est hill-farm in the parish, and on which her 
father had been a hind. It consisted of the 
master, a man whose head was gray, his son 
and daughter, and a grandchild, her scholar, 
whose parents were dead. Gilbert Adamson 
had long been a widower — indeed his wife had 
never been in the parish, but had died abroad. 
He had been a soldier in his youth and prime 
of manhood ; and when he came to settle at 
Moorside, he had been looked at with no very 
friendly eyes ; for evil rumours of his charac- 
ter had preceded his arrival there — and in that 
peaceful pastoral parish, far removed from the 
world's strife, suspicions, without any good 
reason perhaps, had attached themselves to 
the morality and religion of a man, who had 
seen much foreign service, and had passed the 
best years of his life in the wars. It was long 
before these suspicions faded away, and with 
some they still existed in an invincible feeling 
of dislike or even aversion. But the natural 
fierceness and ferocity which, as these peaceful 
dwellers among the hills imagined, had at first, 
in spite of his efforts to control them, often 
dangerously exhibited themselves in fiery out- 
breaks, advancing age had gradually subdued; 
Gilbert Adamson had grown a hard-working 
and industrious man ; affected, if he followed 
it not in sincerity, even an austerely religious 
life ; and a,-; he possessed more than common 
sagacity and intelligence, he had acquired at 
last, if not won, a certain ascendency in the 
parish, even over many whose hearts never 
opened nor warmed towards him — so that he 
was now an elder of the kirk — and, as the 
most unwilling were obliged to acknowledge, 
a just steward to the poor. His gray hairs 
weic not honoured, but it would not be too 
much to say that they were respected. Many 
who had doubled him before came to think 
they had done him injustice, and sought to 
wipe away their fault by regarding him with 
esteem, and showing themselves willing to 
interchange all neighbourly kindnesses and 
services with all the family eft Moorside. His 
son, though somewhat wild and unsteady, and 
loo much addicted to the fascinating pastimes 
pf flood and field, often so ruinous to the sons 



of labour, and rarely long pursued against the 
law without vitiating the whole character, was 
a favourite with all the parish. Singularly 
handsome, and with manners above his birth, 
Ludovic was welcome wherever he went, both 
with young and old. No merry-making could 
deserve the name without him; and at all 
meetings for the display of feats of strength 
and agility, far and wide, through more coun- 
ties than one, he was the champion. Nor had he 
received a mean education. All that the parish 
schoolmaster could teach he knew ; and having 
been the darling companion of all the gentle- 
man's sons in the Manse, the faculties of his 
mind had kept pace with theirs, and from them 
he had caught unconsciously that demeanour 
so far superior to what could have been ex- 
pected from one in his humble condition, but 
which, at the same time, seemed so congenial 
with his happy nature as to be readily acknow- 
ledged to be one of its original gifts. Of his 
sister, Alice, it is sufficient to say, that she was 
the bosom-friend of Margaret Burnside, and 
that all who saw their friendship felt that it 
was just. The small parentless grand-daugh- 
ter was also dear to Margaret — more than per- 
haps her heart knew, because that, like her- 
self, she was an orphan. But the creature was 
also a merry and a madcap child, and her 
freakish pranks, and playful perversenesses, 
as she tossed her head in un tameable glee, and 
went dancing and singing, like a bird on the 
boughs of a tree, all day long, by some strange 
sympathies entirely won the heart of her who, 
throughout all her own childhood, had been 
familiar with grief, and a lonely shedder of 
tears. And thus did Margaret love her, it 
might be said, even with a very mother's love. 
She generally passed her free Saturday after- 
noons at Moorside, and often slept there all 
night with little Ann in her bosom. At 
such times Ludovic was never from home, 
and many a Sabbath he walked with her 
to the kirk — all the family together — and 
once by themselves for miles along the moor 
— a forenoon of perfect sunshine, which re- 
turned upon him in his agony on his dying 
day. 

No one said, no one thought that Ludovic 
and Margaret were lovers — nor were they, 
though well worthy indeed of each other's 
love ; for the orphan's whole heart was filled 
and satisfied with a sense of duty, and all its 
affections were centred in her school, where 
all eyes blessed her, and where she had been 
placed for the good of all those gladsome crea- 
tures, by them who had rescued her from the 
penury that kills the soul, and whose gracious 
bounty she remembered even in her sleep. In 
her prayers she beseeched God to bless them 
rather than the wretch on her knees — their 
images, their names, were ever before her 
eyes and on her ear ; and next to that peace of 
mind which passeth all understanding, and 
comes from the footstool of God into the hum- 
ble, lowly, and contrite heart, was to that or- 
phan, day and night, waking or sleeping, the 
bliss of her gratitude. And thus Ludovic to 
her was a brother, and no more ; a name 
sacred as that of sister, by which she always 
called her Alice, and was so called in return. 



TALE OF EXPIATION. 



35 



But to Ludovic, who had a soul of fire, Mar- 
garet was dearer far than ever sister was to 
the brother whom, at the sacrifice of her own 
life, she might have rescued from death. Go 
where he might, a phantom was at his side — 
a pale fair face for ever fixed its melancholy 
eyes on his, as if foreboding something dismal 
even when they faintly smiled; and once he 
awoke at midnight, when all the house were 
asleep, crying, with shrieks, " God of mercy ! 
Margaret is murdered!" Mysterious passion 
of Love ! that darkens its own dreams of de- 
light with unimaginable horrors ! Shall we 
call such dire bewilderment the superstition 
of troubled fantasy, or the inspiration of the 
prophetic soul ! 

From what seemingly insignificant sources 
— and by means of what humble instruments 
— may this life's best happiness be diffused 
over the households of industrious men ! Here 
was the orphan daughter of forgotten paupers, 
both dead ere she could speak; herself, during 
all her melancholy childhood, a pauper even 
more enslaved than ever they had been — one 
of the most neglected and unvalued of all 
God's creatures — who, had she then died, would 
have been buried in some nettled nook of the 
kirkyard, nor her grave been watered almost 
by one single tear — suddenly brought out from 
the cold and cruel shade in which she had 
been withering away, by the interposition of 
human but angelic hands, into the heaven's 
most gracious sunshine, where all at once her 
beauty blossomed like the rose. She, who for 
so many years had been even begrudgingly fed 
on the poorest and scantiest fare, by Penury 
ungrateful for all her weak but zealous efforts 
to please by doing her best, in sickness and 
sorrow, at all her tasks, in or out of doors, and 
in all weathers, however rough and severe — 
was now raised to the rank of a moral, in- 
tellectual, and religious being, and presided 
over, tended, and instructed many little ones, 
far, far happier in their childhood than it had 
been her lot to be, and all growing up beneath 
her now untroubled eyes, in innocence, love, 
and joy inspired into their hearts by her, their 
young and happy benefactress. Not a human 
dwelling in all the parish, that had not reason 
to be thankful to Margaret Burnside. She 
taught them to be pleasant in their manners, 
neat in their persons, rational in their minds, 
pure in their hearts, and industrious in all 
their habits. Rudeness, coarseness, sullenness, 
all angry fits, and all idle dispositions — the be- 
setting vices and sins of the children of the 
poor, whose home-education is often so miser- 
ably, and almost necessarily neglected — did 
this sweet Teacher, by the divine influence of 
meekness never ruffled, and tenderness never 
troubled, in a few months subdue and over- 
come — till her school-room, every day in the 
week, was, in its cheerfulness, sacred as a 
Sabbath, and murmured from morn till eve 
with the hum of perpetual happiness. The 
effects were soon felt in every house. All 
floors were tidier, and order and regularity 
enlivened every hearth. It was the pride of 
her scholars to get their own little gardens 
behind their parents' huts to bloom like that 
of the Brae— and. in imitation of that flowery 



porch, to train up the pretty creepers on the 
wall. In the kirkyard, a smiling group every 
Sabbath forenoon waited for her at the gate — 
and walked, with her at their head, into the 
House of God — a beautiful procession to all 
their parents' eyes — one by one dropping away 
into their own seats, as the band moved along 
the little lobby, and the minister sitting in the 
pulpit all the while, looked solemnly down 
upon the fair flock — the shepherd of their 
souls! 

It was Sabbath, but Margaret Burnside was 
not in the kirk. The congregation had risen 
to join in prayer, when the great door was 
thrown open, and a woman, apparelled as for 
the house of worship, but wild and ghastly in 
her face and eyes as a maniac hunted by evil 
spirits, burst in upon the service, and, with 
uplifted hands, beseeched the man of God to 
forgive her irreverent entrance, for that the 
foulest and most unnatural murder had been 
done, and that her own eyes had seen the corpse 
of Margaret Burnside lying on the moor in a 
pool of blood! The congregation gave one 
groan, and then an outcry as if the roof of the 
kirk had been toppling over their heads. All 
cheeks waxed white, women fainted, and the 
firmest heart quaked with terror and pity, as 
once and again the affrighted witness, in the 
same words, described the horrid spectacle, 
and then rushed out into the open air, followed 
by hundreds, who for some minutes had been 
palsy-stricken ; and now the kirkyard was all 
in a tumult round the body of her who lay in 
a swoon. In the midst of that dreadful ferment, 
there were voices crying aloud that the poor 
woman was mad, and that such horror could 
not be beneath the sun ; for such a perpetra- 
tion on the Sabbath-day, and first heard of 
just as the prayers of his people were about to 
ascend to the Father of all mercies, shocked 
belief, and doubt struggled with despair as in 
the helpless shudderings of some dream of 
blood. The crowd were at last prevailed on 
by their pastor to disperse, and sit down on the 
tombstones, and water being sprinkled over, 
the face of her who still lay in that mortal 
swoon, and the air suffered to circulate freely 
round her, she again opened her glassy eyes, 
and raising herself on her elbow, stared on the 
multitude, all gathered there so wan and silent, 
and shrieked out, " The Day of Judgment ! 
The Day of Judgment!" 

The aged minister raised her on her feet, 
and led her to a grave, on which she sat down, 
and hid her face on his knees. " that I 
should have Uvea io see the day — but dreadful 
are the decrees of the Most High — and she 
whom we all loved has been cruelly mur- 
dered! Carry me with you, people, and I 
will show you where lies her corpse." 

" Where — where is Ludovic Adamson V* 
cried a hoarse voice which none there had 
ever heard before ; and all eyes were turned 
in one direction ; but none knew who had 
spoken, and all again was hush. Then all at 
once a hundred voices repeated the same 
words, "Where — where is Ludovic Adam- 
son 7" and there was no reply. Then, indeed, 
was the kirkyard in an angry and a wrathful 
ferment, and men looked far into each other's 



36 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



eyes for confirmation of their suspicions. And 
there was whispering about things, that, though 
in themselves light as air, seemed now charged 
with hideous import; and then arose sacred 
appeals to Heaven's eternal justice, horridly 
mingled with oaths and curses ; and all the 
crowd, springing to their feet, pronounced, 
" that no other but he could be the murderer." 

It was remembered now, that for months 
past Margaret Burnside had often looked me- 
lancholy — that her visits had been less fre- 
quent to Moorside ; and one person in the 
crowd said, that a few weeks ago she had 
come upon them suddenly in a retired place, 
when Margaret was weeping bitterly, and Lu- 
dovic tossing his arms, seemingly in wrath 
and distraction. All agreed that of late he 
had led a disturbed and reckless life — and 
that something dark and suspicious had hung 
about him, wherever he went, as if he were 
haunted by an evil conscience. But did not 
strange men sometimes pass through the Moor 
— squalid mendicants, robber-like, from the far- 
off city— one by one, yet seemingly belonging 
to the same gang — with bludgeons in their 
hands — half-naked, and often drunken in their 
hunger, as at the doors of lonesome houses 
they demanded alms ; or more like foot-pads 
than beggars, with stern gestures, rising up 
from the ditches on the way-side, stopped the 
frightened women and children going upon 
errands, and thanklessly received pence from 
the poor? One of them must have been the 
murderer ! But then, again, the whole tide of 
suspicion would set in upon Ludovic — her 
lover; for the darker and more dreadful the 
guilt, the more welcome is it to the fears of 
the imagination when its waking dreams are 
floating in blood. 

A tall figure came forward from the porch, 
and all was silence when the congregation 
beheld the Father of the suspected criminal. 
He stood still as a tree in a calm day — trunk, 
limbs, moved not — and his gray head was un- 
covered. He then stretched out his arm, not 
in an imploring, but in a commanding atti- 
tude, and essayed to speak: but his white lips 
quivered, and his tongue refused its office. At 
last, almost fiercely, he uttered, " Who dares 
denounce my son 1" and like the growling 
thunder, the crowd cried, "All — all — he is the 
murderer !" Some said that the old man 
smiled; but it could have been but a convul- 
sion of the features — outraged nature's wrung- 
out and writhing expression of disdain, to 
show how a father's love brooks the cruelty 
of foolish falsehood and injustice. 

Men, women, and children — all whom grief 
and horror had not made helpless — moved 
away towards the Moor — the woman who had 
seen the sight leading the way; for now her 
whole strength had returned to her, and she 
was drawn and driven by an irresistible pas- 
sion to look again at what had almost de- 
stroyed her judgment. Now they were miles 
from the kirk, and over some brushwood, at 
the edge of a morass some distance from the 
common footpath, crows were seen diving and 
careering in the air, and a raven flapping sud- 
denly out of the covert, sailed away with a 



savage croak along a range of cliffs. The 
whole multitude stood stock-still at that car- 
rion-sound. The guide said shudderingly, in 
a low hurried voice, " See, see — that is her 
mantle" — and there indeed Margaret lay, all 
in a heap, maimed, mangled, murdered, with 
a hundred gashes. The corpse seemed as if 
it had been baked in frost, and was embedded 
in coagulated blood. Shreds and patches of 
her dress, torn away from her bosom, be- 
strewed the bushes — for many yards round 
about, there had been the trampling of feet, 
and a long lock of hair that had been torn 
from her temples, with the dews yet unmelted 
on it, was lying upon a plant of broom, a little 
way from the corpse. The first to lift the 
body from the horrid bed was Gilbert Adam- 
son. He had been long familiar with death 
in all its ghastliness, and all had now looked 
to him — forgetting for the moment that he was 
the father of the murderer — to perform the 
task from which they recoiled in horror. 
Resting on one knee, he placed the corpse on 
the other — and who could have believed, that 
even the most violent and cruel death could 
have wrought such a change on a face once 
so beautiful! All was distortion — and terri- 
ble it was to see the dim glazed eyes, fixedly 
open, and the orbs insensible to the strong sun 
that smote her face white as snow among the 
streaks as if left by bloody fingers ! Her throat 
was all discoloured — and a silk handkerchief 
twisted into a cord, that had manifestly been 
used in the murder, was of a redder hue than 
when it had veiled her breast. No one knows 
what horror his eyes are able to look on, till 
they are tried. A circle of stupified gazers 
was drawn by a horrid fascination closer and 
closer round the corpse — and women stood 
there holding children by the hands, and faint- 
ed not, but observed the sight, and shuddered 
without shrieking, and stood there all dumb as 
ghosts. But the body was now borne along 
by many hands — at first none knew in what 
direction, till many voices muttered, "To Moor- 
side — to Moorside" — and in an hour it was 
laid on the bed in which Margaret Burnside 
had so often slept with her beloved little Ann 
in her bosom. 

The hand of some one had thrown a cloth 
over the corpse. The room was filled with peo- 
ple — but all their power and capacity of horror 
had been exhausted — and the silence was now 
almost like that which attends a natural death, 
when all the neighbours are assembled for the 
funeral. Alice, with little Ann beside her, 
kneeled at the bed, nor feared to lean her head 
close to the covered corpse — sobbing out sylla- 
bles that showed how passionately she prayed 
— and that she and her little niece — and, oh! 
for that unhappy father — were delivering them- 
selves up into the hands of God. The father 
knelt not — neither did he sit down — nor move 
— nor groan — but stood at the foot of the bed, 
with arms folded almost sternly — and with 
eyes fixed on the sheet, in which there seemed 
to be neither ruth nor dread — but only an aus- 
tere composure, which were it indeed but re- 
signation to that dismal decree of Providencr, 
had been most sublime — but who can see into 



TALE OF EXPIATION. 



37 



the heart of a man either righteous or wicked, 
and know what may be passing there, breath- 
ed from the gates of heaven or of hell ! 

Soon as the body had been found, shepherds 
and herdsmen, fleet of foot as the deer, had set 
off to scour the country far and wide, hill and 
,glen, mountain and morass, moor and wood, 
for the murderer. If he be on the face of the 
earth, and not self-plunged in despairing sui- 
cide into some quagmire, he will be found — 
for all the population of many districts are 
now afoot, and precipices are clomb till now 
brushed but by the falcons. A figure, like that 
of a man, is seen by some of the hunters from 
a hill-top, lying among the stones by the side 
of a solitary loch. They separate, and descend 
upon him, and then gathering in, they behold 
the man whom they seek — Ludovic Adamson, 
the murderer. 

His face is pale and haggard — yet flushed 
as if by a fever centered in his heart. That 
is no dress for the Sabbath-day — soiled and 
savage-looking — and giving to the eyes that 
search an assurance of guilt. He starts to his 
feet, as they think, like some wild beast sur- 
prised in his lair, and gathering itself up to 
fight or fly. But — strange enormity — a Bible 
is in his hand ! And the shepherd who first 
seized him, taking the book out of his grasp, 
looks into the page, and reads, " Whoever shed- 
deth man's blood, by man shall his blood be 
surely shed." On a leaf is written, in her own 
well-known hand, "The gift of Margaret Burn- 
side !" Not a word is said by his captors — 
they offer no needless violence — no indignities 
— but answer all inquiries of surprise and as- 
tonishment (Oh ! can one so young be so hard- 
ened in wickedness !) by a stern silence, and 
upbraiding eyes, that like daggers must stab 
his heart. At last he walks doggedly and sul- 
lenly along, and refuses to speak — yet his 
tread is firm — there is no want of composure 
in his face — now that the first passion of fear 
or anger has left it; and now that they have 
the murderer in their clutch, some begin al- 
most to pity him, and others to believe, or at 
least to hope, that he may be innocent. As yet 
they have said not a word of the crime of 
which they accuse him ; but let him try to mas- 
ter the expression of his voice and his eyes as 
he may, guilt is in those stealthy glances — 
guilt is in those reckless tones. And why does 
he seek to hide his right hand in his bosom ? 
And whatever he may affect to say — they ask 
him not — most certainly that stain on his shirt- 
collar is blood. But now they are at Moor- 
side. 

There is still a great crowd all round about 
the house — in the garden — and at the door — and 
a troubled cry announces that the criminal has 
been taken, and is close at hand. His father 
meets him at the gate ; and, kneeling down, 
holds up his clasped hands, and says, "My 
son, if thou art guilty, confess, and die." The 
criminal angrily waves his father aside, and 
walks towards the door. " Fools ! fools ! what 
mean ye by this ? What crime has been com- 
mitted ] And how dare ye to think me the 
criminal? Am I like a murderer?" — "We 
never spoke to him of the murder — we never 
spoke to him of the murder !" cried one of the 



men who now held him by the arm ; and all 
assembled then exclaimed, "Guilty, guilty — 
that one word will hang him ! Oh, pity, pity, for 
his father and poor sister — this will break their 
hearts !" Appalled, yet firm of foot, the pri- 
soner forced his way into the house, and turn- 
ing, in his confusion, into the chamber on the 
left, there he beheld the corpse of the murdered 
on the bed — for the sheet had been removed — 
as yet not laid out, and disfigured and deform- 
ed just as she had been found on the moor, in 
the same misshapen heap of death! One long 
insane glare — one shriek, as if all his heart- 
strings at once had burst — and then down fell 
the strong man on the floor like lead. One 
trial was past which no human hardihood 
could endure — another, and yet another awaits 
him ; but them he will bear as the guilty brave 
have often borne them, and the most searching 
eye shall not see him quail at the bar or on 
the scaffold. 

They lifted the stricken wretch from the 
floor, placed him in a chair, and held him up- 
right, till he should revive from the fit. And 
he soon did revive ; for health flowed in all 
his veins, and he had the strength of a giant. 
But when his senses returned, there was none 
to pity him ; for the shock had given an ex- 
pression of guilty horror to all his looks, and, 
like a man walking in his sleep under the 
temptation of some dreadful dream, he moved 
with fixed eyes towards the bed, and looking at 
the corpse, gobbled in hideous laughter, and 
then wept and tore his hair like a distracted 
woman or child. Then he stooped down as he 
would kiss the face, but staggered back, and, 
covering his eyes with his hands, uttered such 
a groan as is sometimes heard rending the 
sinner's breast when the avenging Furies are 
upon him in his dreams. All who heard it 
felt that he was guilty ; and there was a fierce 
cry through the room of " Make him touch the 
body, and if he be the murderer, it will bleed !" 
— " Fear not, Ludovic, to touch it, my boy," 
said his father; "bleed afresh it will not, for 
thou art innocent: and savage though now 
they be who once were proud to be thy friends, 
even they will believe thee guiltless when the. 
corpse refuses to bear witness against thee, 
and not a drop leaves its quiet heart!" But 
his son spake not a word, nor did he seem to 
know that his father had spoken ; but he suf- 
fered himself to be led passively towards the 
bed. One of the bystanders took his hand and 
placed it on the naked breast, when out of the 
corners of the teeth-clenched mouth, and out 
of the swollen nostrils, two or three blood-drops 
visibly oozed ; and a sort of shrieking shout 
declared the sacred faith of all the crowd in 
the dreadful ordeal. " What body is this 1 'tis 
all over blood !" said the prisoner, looking with 
an idiot vacancy on the faces that surrounded 
him. But now the sheriff of the county en- 
tered the room, along with some officers of 
justice, and he was spared any further shocks 
from that old saving superstition. His wrists 
soon after were manacled. These were all the 
words he had uttered since he recovered from 
the fit ; and he seemed now in a state of 
stupor. 
Ludovic Adamson, after examination of wit 



38 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



nesses who crowded against him from many 
unexpected quarters, was committed that very 
Sabbath night to prison on a charge of murder. 
On the Tuesday following, the remains of Mar- 
garet Burnside were interred. All the parish 
were at the funeral. In Scotland it is not cus- 
tomary for females to join in the last simple 
ceremonies of death. But in this case they 
did; and all her scholars, in the same white 
dresses in which they used to walk with her 
at their head into the kirk on Sabbaths, followed 
the bier. Alice and little Ann were there, 
nearest the coffin, and the father of him who 
had wrought all this wo was one of its sup- 
porters. The head of the murdered girl rest- 
ed, it might be said, on his shoulder — but none 
can know the strength which God gives to his 
servants — and all present felt for him, as he 
walked steadily under that dismal burden, a 
pity, and even an affection, which they had 
been unable to yield to him ere he had been 
so sorely tried. The Ladies from the Castle 
were among the other mourners, and stood by 
the open grave. A sunnier day had never 
shone from heaven, and that very grave itself 
partook of the brightness, as the coffin — with 
the gilt letters, " Margaret Burnside, Aged 18" 
— was let down, and in the darkness below 
disappeared. No flowers were sprinkled there 
— nor afterwards planted on the turf — vain 
offerings of unavailing sorrow ! But in that 
nook — beside the bodies of her poor parents — 
she was left for the grass to grow over her, as 
over the other humble dead ; and nothing but 
the very simplest headstone was placed there, 
with a sentence from Scripture below the name. 
There was less weeping, less sobbing, than at 
many other funerals ; for as sure as Mercy 
ruled the skies, all believed that she was there 
— all knew it, just as if the gates of heaven 
had opened and showed her a white-robed 
spirit at the right hand of the throne. And 
why should any rueful lamentation have been 
wailed over the senseless dust 1 But on the 
way home over the hills, and in the hush of 
evening beside their hearths, and in the still- 
ness of night on their beds — all — young and 
old — all did nothing but weep ! 

For weeks — such was the pity, grief, and 
awe inspired by this portentous crime and la- 
mentable calamity, that all the domestic on- 
goings in all the houses far and wide, were 
melancholy and mournful, as if the country 
had been fearing a visitation of the plague. 
Sin, it was felt, had br6ught not only sorrow 
on the parish, but shame that ages would not 
wipe away; and strangers, as they travelled 
through the moor, would point the place where 
the foulest murder had been committed in all 
the annals of crime. As for the family at 
Moorside, the daughter had their boundless 
compassion, though no eye had seen her since 
the funeral ; but people, in speaking of the 
father, would still shake their heads, and put 
iheir fingers to their lips, and say to one an- 
other in whispers, that Gilbert Adamson had 
once been a bold, bad man — that his religion, 
.ii spite of all his repulsive austerity, wore not 
the aspect of truth — and that, had he held a 
stricter and a stronger hand on the errors of 
nis misguided son, this foul deed had not been 



perpetrated, nor that wretched sinner's soul 
given to perdition. Yet others had gentler and 
humaner thoughts. They remembered him 
walking along God-supported beneath the bier 
— and at the mouth of the grave — and feared 
to look on that head — formerly grizzled, but 
now quite gray — when on the very first Sab- 
bath after the murder he took his place in the 
elder's seat, and was able to stand up, along 
with the rest of the congregation, when the 
minister prayed for peace to his soul, and 
hoped for the deliverance out of jeopardy of 
him now lying in bonds. A low Amen went 
all round the kirk at these words ; for the most 
hopeless called to mind that maxim of law, 
equity, and justice — that every man under ac- 
cusation of crime should be held innocent till 
he is proved to be guilty. Nay, a human tribu- 
nal might condemn him, and yet might he stand 
acquitted before the tribunal of God. 

There were various accounts of the beha- 
viour of the prisoner. Some said that he was 
desperately hardened — others, sunk in sullen 
apathy and indifference — and one or two per- 
sons belonging to the parish who had seen 
him, declared that he seemed to care not for 
himself, but to be plunged in profound melan- 
choly for the fate of Margaret Burnside, whose 
name he involuntarily mentioned, and then 
bowed his head on his knees and wept. His 
guilt he neither admitted at that interview, nor 
denied; but he confessed that some circum- 
stances bore hard against him, and that he was 
prepared for the event of his trial — condemna- 
tion and death. "But if you are not guilty, 
Ludovic, tvho can be the murderer? Not the 
slightest shade of suspicion has fallen on any 
other person — and did not, alas ! the body bleed 

when" The unhappy wretch sprang up 

from the bed, it was said, at these words, and 
hurried like a madman back and forward along 
the stone floor of his cell. "Yea — yea !" at 
last he cried, " the mouth and nostrils of my 
Margaret did indeed bleed when they pressed 
down my hand on her cold bosom. It is God's 
truth !" " God's truth !"— " Yes— God's truth. 
I saw first one drop, and then another, trickle 
towards me — and I prayed to our Saviour to 
wipe them off before other eyes might behold 
the dreadful witnesses against me ; but at that 
hour Heaven was most unmerciful — for those 
two small drops — as all of you saw — soon be- 
came a very stream — and all her face, neck, 
and breast — you saw it as well as I miserable 
— were at last drenched in blood. Then I may 
have confessed that I was guilty — did I, or did 
I not, confess itl Tell me — for I remember 
nothing distinctly; — but if I did — the judgment 
of offended Heaven, then punishing me for my 
sins, had made me worse than mad — and so 
had all your abhorrent eyes ; and, men, if I 
did confess, it was the cruelty of God that drove 
me to it — and your cruelty — which was great; 
for no pity had any one for me that day, though 
Margaret Burnside lay before me a murdered 
corpse— and a hoarse whisper came to my ear 
urging me to confess — I well believe from no 
human lips, but from the Father of Lies, who, 
at that hour, was suffered to leave the pit to 
ensnare my soul." Such was said to have 
been the main sense of what he uttered in the 



TALE OF EXPIATION. 



39 



presence of two or three who had formerly 
been among his most intimate friends, and who 
knew not, on leaving his cell and coming into 
the open air, whether to think him innocent or 
guilty. As long as they thought they saw his 
eyes regarding them, and that they heard his 
voice speaking, they believed him innocent ; 
but when the expression of the tone of his 
voice, and of the look of his eyes — which they 
had felt belonged to innocence — died away 
from their memory — then arose against him 
the strong, strange, circumstantial evidence, 
which, wisely or unwisely — lawyers and judges 
have said cannot lie — and then, in their hearts, 
one and all of them pronounced him guilty. 

But had not his father often visited the pris- 
oner's cell'? Once — and once only; for in 
obedience to his son's passionate prayer, be- 
seeching him — if there were any mercy left 
either on earth or in heaven — never more to 
enter that dungeon, the miserable parent had 
not again entered the prison ; but he had been 
seen one morning at dawn, by one who knew 
his person, walking round and round the walls, 
staring up at the black building in distraction, 
especially at one small grated window in the 
north tower — and it is most probable that he 
had been pacing his rounds there during all 
the night. Nobody could conjecture, however 
dimly, what was the meaning of his banish- 
ment from his son's cell. Gilbert Adamson, 
so stern to others, even to his own only daugh- 
ter, had been always but too indulgent to his 
Ludovic — and had that lost wretch's guilt, so 
exceeding great, changed his heart into stone, 
and made the sight of his old father's gray hairs 
hateful to his eyes 1 But then the jailer, who 
had heard him imploring — beseeching — com- 
manding his father to remain till after the trial 
at Moorside, said, that all the while the prison- 
er sobbed and wept like a child ; and that when 
he unlocked the door of the cell, to let the old 
man out, it was a hard thing to tear away the 
arms and hands of Ludovic from his knees, 
while the father sat like a stone image on the 
bed, and kept his tearless eyes fixed sternly 
upon the wall, as if not a soul had been pre- 
sent, and he himself had been a criminal con- 
demned next day to die. 

The father had obeyed, religiously, that miser- 
able injunction, and from religion it seemed 
he had found comfort. For Sabbath after Sab- 
bath he was at the kirk — he stood, as he had 
been wont to do for years, at the poor's plate, 
and returned grave salutations to those who 
dropt their mite into the small sacred treasury 
— his eyes calmly, and even critically, regard- 
ed the pastor during prayer and sermon — and 
his deep bass voice was heard, as usual, 
through all the house of God in the Psalms. 
On week-days, he was seen by passers-by to 
drive his flocks afield, and to overlook his 
sheep on the hill-pastures, or in the pen-fold ; 
and as it was still spring, and seed-time had 
been late this season, he was observed holding 
the plough, as of yore ; nor had his skill de- 
serted him — for the furrows were as straight 
as if drawn by a rule on paper — and soon 
Dright and beautiful was the braird on all the 
low lands of his farm. The Comforter was 
with him, and, sorely as he had been tried, his 



heart was not yet wholly broken ; and it was 
believed that, for years, he might outlive the 
blow that at first had seemed more than a 
mortal man might bear and be ! Yet that his 
wo, though hidden, was dismal, all erelong 
knew, from certain tokens that intrenched his 
face — cheeks shrunk and fallen — brow not so 
much furrowed as scarred, eyes quenched, 
hair thinner and thinner far, as if he himself 
had torn it away in handfuls during the soli- 
tude of midnight — and now absolutely as white 
as snow; and over' the whole man an inde- 
scribable ancientness far beyond his years — 
though they were many, and most of them had 
been passed in torrid climes — all showed how 
grief has its agonies as destructive as those of 
guilt, and those the most wasting when they 
work in the heart and in the brain, unrelieved 
by the shedding of one single tear — when the 
very soul turns dry as dust, and life is im- 
prisoned, rather than mingled, in the decaying 
— the mouldering body ! 

The Day of Trial came, and all labour was 
suspended in the parish, as if it had been a 
mourning fast. Hundreds of people from this 
remote district poured into the circuit-town, 
and besieged the court-house. Horsemen were 
in readiness, soon as the verdict should be re- 
turned, to carry the intelligence — of life or 
death — to all those glens. A few words will 
suffice to tell the trial, the nature of the evi- 
dence, and its issue. The prisoner, who stood 
at the bar in black, appeared — though miser- 
ably changed from a man of great muscular 
power and activity, a magnificent man, into a 
tall thin shadow — perfectly unappalled; but 
in a face so white, and wasted, and wo-begone, 
the most profound physiognomist could read 
not one faintest symptom either of hope or 
fear, trembling or trust, guilt or innocence. 
He hardly seemed to belong to this world, and 
stood fearfully and ghastily conspicuous be- 
tween the officers of justice, above all the 
crowd that devoured him with their eyes, all 
leaning towards the bar to catch t«he first sound 
of his voice, when to the indictment he should 
plead "Not Guilty." These words he did ut- 
ter, in a hollow voice altogether passionless, 
and then was suffered to sit down, which he 
did in a manner destitute of all emotion. Dur- 
ing all the many long hours of his trial, he 
never moved head, limbs, or body, except once, 
when he drank some water, which he had not 
asked for, but which was given to him by a 
friend. The evidence was entirely circum- 
stantial, and consisted of a few damning facts, 
and of many of the very slightest sort, which, 
taken singly, seemed to mean nothing, but 
which, when considered all together, seemed 
to mean something against him — how much 
or how little, there were among the agitated 
audience many differing opinions. But slight 
as they were, either singly or together, they 
told fearfully against the prisoner, when cou 
nected with the fatal few which no ingenuity 
could ever explain away; and though inge 
nuity did all it could do, when wielded by 
eloquence of the highest order — and as the 
prisoner's counsel sat down, there went a 
rustle and a buzz through the court, and a com- 
munication of looks and whispers, that seemed 



40 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



to denote that there were hopes of his acquit- 
tal — yet, if such hopes there were, they were 
deadened by the recollection of the calm, clear, 
logical address to the jury by the counsel for 
the crown, and destroyed by the judge's charge, 
which amounted almost to demonstration of 
guilt, and concluded with a confession due to 
his oath and conscience, that he saw not how 
the jury could do their duty to their Creator 
and their fellow-creatures, but by returning owe 
verdict. They retired to consider it ; and, dur- 
ing a deathlike silence, all eyes were bent on 
a deathlike image. 

It had appeared in evidence, that the murder 
had been committed, at least all the gashes in- 
flicted — for there were also finger-marks of 
strangulation — with a bill-hook, such as for- 
esters use in lopping trees ; and several wit- 
nesses swore that the bill-hook which was 
shown them, stained with blood, and with hair 
sticking on the haft — belonged to Ludovic 
Adamson. It was also' given in evidence — 
though some doubts rested on the nature of the 
precise words — that -on that day, in the room 
with the corpse, he had given a wild and in- 
coherent denial to the question then put to him 
in the din, " What he had done with the bill- 
hook 1" Nobody had seen it in his possession 
since the spring before ; but it had been found, 
after several weeks' search, in a hag in the 
moss, in the direction that he would have most 
probably taken — had he been the murderer — 
when flying from the spot to the loch where he 
was seized. The shoes which he had on when 
taken, fitted the foot-marks on the ground, not 
far from the place of the murder, but not so 
perfectly as another pair which were found in 
the house. But that other pair, it was proved, 
belonged to the old man; and therefore the 
correspondence between the footmarks and the 
prisoner's shoes, though not perfect, was a cir- 
cumstance of much suspicion. But a far 
stronger fact, in this part of the evidence, was 
sworn to against the prisoner. Though there 
was no blood on his shoes — when apprehended 
his legs were bare — though that circumstance, 
strange as it may seem, had never been noticed 
till he was on the way to prison ! His stock- 
ings had been next day found lying on the 
sward, near the shore of the loch, manifestly 
after having been washed and laid out to dry 
in the sun. At mention of this circumstance 
a cold shudder ran, through the court; but 
neither that, nor indeed any other circumstance 
in the evidence — not even the account of the 
appearance which the murdered body exhibit- 
ed when found on the moor, or when after- 
wards laid on the bed^— extorted from the pri- 
soner one groan — one sigh — or touched the 
imperturbable deathliness of his countenance. 
It was proved, that when searched — in prison, 
and not before; for the agitation that reigned 
over all assembled in the room at Moorside 
that dreadful day, had confounded even those 
accustomed to deal with suspected criminals 
— there were found in his pocket a small 
French gold watch, and also a gold brooch, 
which the ladies of the Castle had given to 
Margaret Burnside. On these being taken from 
him, he had said nothing, but looked aghast. 
A r'.f'ce of torn and bloody paper," which had 



been picked up near the body, was sworn to 
be in his handwriting; and though the mean- 
ing of the words — yet legible — was obscure, 
they seemed to express a request that Margaret 
would meet him on the moor on that Saturday 
afternoon she was murdered. The words 
"Saturday" — ''meet me" — "last time," — were 
not indistinct, and the paper was of the same 
quality and colour with some found in a drawer 
in his bed-room at Moorside. It was proved 
that he had been drinking with some dissolute 
persons — poachers and the like — in a public 
house in a neighbouring parish all Saturday, 
till well on in the afternoon, when he left them 
in a state of intoxication — and was then seen 
running along the hill side in the direction of 
the moor. Where he passed the night between 
the Saturday and the Sabbath, he could give 
no account, except once when unasked, and as 
if speaking to himself, he was overheard by 
the jailer to mutter, " Oh! that fatal night — that 
fatal night!" And then, when suddenly inter- 
rogated, "Where were youl" he answered, 
" Asleep on the hill ;" and immediately relapsed 
into a state of mental abstraction. These were 
the chief circumstances against him, which his 
counsel had striven to explain away. That 
most eloquent person dwelt with affecting 
earnestness on the wickedness of putting any 
evil construction on the distracted behaviour 
of the wretched man when brought without 
warning upon the sudden sight of the mangled 
corpse of the beautiful girl, whom all allowed 
he had most passionately and tenderly loved; 
and he strove to prove — as he did prove to the 
conviction of many — that such behaviour was 
incompatible with such guilt, and almost of 
itself established his innocence. All that was 
sworn to against him, as having passed in that 
dreadful room, was in truth for him — unless all 
our knowledge of the best and of the worst of 
human nature were not, as folly, to be given 
to the winds. He beseeched the jury, there- 
fore, to look at all the other circumstances that 
did indeed seem to bear hard upon the pri- 
soner, in the light of his innocence, and not of 
his guilt, and that they wou'd all fade into 
nothing. What mattered his possession of the 
watch and other trinkets 1 Lovers as they 
were, might not the unhappy girl have given 
them to him for temporary keepsakes 1 Or 
might he not have taken them from her in some 
playful mood, or received them — (and the 
brooch was cracked, and the mainspring of the 
watch broken, though the glass was whole) — 
to get them repaired in the town, which he 
often visited, and she never] Could human 
credulity for one moment believe, that such a 
man as the prisoner at the bar had been sworn 
to be by a host of witnesses — and especially 
by that witness, who, with such overwhelming 
solemnity, had declared he loved him as his 
own son, and would have been proud if Hea- 
ven had given him such a son — he who had bap- 
tized him, and known him well ever since a 
child— that such a man could rob the body of 
her whom he had violated and murdered 1 If, 
under the instigation of the devil, he had vio- 
lated and murdered her, and for a moment 
were made the hideous supposition, did vast 
hell hold that demon whose voice would have 



TALE OF EXPIATION. 



41 



tempted the violator and murderer — suppose 
him both — yea, that man at the bar — sworn to 
by all the parish, if need were, as a man of 
tenderest charities, and generosity unbounded 
— in the lust of lucre, consequent on the satiat- 
ing of another lust — to rob his victim of a few 
trinkets ! Let loose the wildest imagination 
into the realms of wildest wickedness, and yet 
they dared not, as they feared God, to credit for 
a moment the union of such appalling and 
such paltry guilt, in that man who now trembled 
not before them, but who seemed cut off from 
all the sensibilities of this life by the scythe 
of Misery that had shorn him down ! But why 
try to recount, however feebly, the line of 
defence taken by the speaker, who on that day 
seemed all but inspired. The sea may over- 
turn rocks, or fire consume them till they split 
in pieces ; but a crisis there sometimes is in 
man's destiny, which all the powers ever 
lodged in the lips of man, were they touched 
with a coal from heaven, cannot avert, and 
when even he who strives to save, feels and 
knows' that he is striving all in vain — ay, vain, 
as a worm — to arrest the tread of Fate about 
to trample down its victim into the dust. All 
hoped — many almost believed — that the pri- 
soner would be acquitted — that a verdict of 
" Not Proven," at least, if not of " Not Guilty," 
would be returned; but they had not been 
sworn to do justice before man and before 
God — and, if need were, to seal up even the 
fountains of mercy in their hearts — flowing, 
and easily set a-flowing, by such a spectacle 
as that bar presented — a man already seeming 
to belong unto the dead ! 

In about a quarter of an hour the jury re- 
turned to the box — and the verdict, having been 
sealed with black, wax, was handed up to the 
Judge, who read, " We unanimously find the 
prisoner Guilty." He then stood up to receive 
the sentence of death. Not a dry eye was in 
the court during the Judge's solemn and affect- 
ing address to the criminal — except those of 
the Shadow on whom had been pronounced the 
doom. " Your body will be hung in chains 
on the moor — on a gibbet erected on the spot 
where you murdered the victim of your unhal- 
lowed lust, and there will your bones bleach 
in the sun, and rattle in the wind, after the in- 
sects and the birds of the air have devoured 
your flesh ; and in all future times, the spot on 
which, God-forsaking and God-forsaken, you 
perpetrated that double crime, at which all hu- 
manity shudders, will be looked on from afar 
by the traveller passing through that lonesome 
wild with a sacred horror !" Here the voice 
of the Judge faltered, and he covered his face 
with his hands; but the prisoner stood unmov- 
ed in figure, and in face untroubled — and when 
all was closed, was removed from the bar, the 
same ghostlike and unearthly phantom, seem- 
ingly unconscious of what had passed, or even 
of his own existence. 

Surely now he will suffer his old father to 
visit him in his cell ! " Once more only — only 
once more let me see him before I die ! " were 
his words to the clergyman of the parish, 
whose Manse he had so often visited when a 
young and happy boy. That servant of Christ 
had not forsaken him whom now all the world 



had forsaken. As free from sin himself as 
might be mortal and fallen man — mortal be- 
cause fallen — he knew from Scripture and from 
nature, that in "the lowest deep there is still a 
lower deep" in wickedness, into which all of 
woman born may fall, unless held back by the 
arm of the Almighty Being, whom they must 
serve steadfastly in holiness and truth. He 
knew, too, from the same source, that man can- 
not sin beyond the reach of God's mercy — it 
the worst of all imaginable sinners seek, in a 
Bible-breathed spirit at last, that mercy through 
the Atonement of the Redeemer. Daily — and 
nightly — he visited that cell ; nor did he fear 
to touch the hand — now wasted to the bone — 
which at the temptation of the Prince of the 
Air, who is mysteriously suffered to enter in at 
the gates of every human heart that is guard- 
ed not by the flaming sword of God's own Ser- 
aphim — was lately drenched in the blood of 
the most innocent creature that ever looked on 
the day. Yet a sore trial it was to his Christi- 
anity to find the criminal so obdurate. He 
would make no confession. Yet said that it 
was fit — that it was far best that he should 
die — that he deserved death ! But ever when 
the deed without a name was alluded to, his 
tongue was tied ; and once in the midst of an 
impassioned prayer, beseeching him to listen 
to conscience and confess — he that prayed 
shuddered to behold him frown, and to hear 
bursting out in terrible energ5 r , "Cease — cease 
to torment me, or you will drive me to deny 
my God!" 

No father came to visit him in his cell. On 
the day of trial he had been missing from 
Moorside, and was seen next morning — (where 
he had been all night never was known — 
though it was afterwards rumoured that one 
like him had been seen sitting, as the gloaming 
darkened, on the very spot of the murder) — 
wandering about the hills, hither and thither, 
and round and round about, like a man strick- 
en with blindness, and vainly seeking to find 
his home. When brought into the house, his 
senses were gone, and he had lost the power 
of speech. All he could do was to mutter 
some disjointed syllables, which he did contin- 
ually, without one moment's cessation, one un- 
intelligible and most rueful moan ! The figure 
of his daughter seemed to cast no image on 
his eyes — blind and dumb he sat where he had 
been placed, perpetually wringing his hands, 
with his shaggy eyebrows drawn high up his 
forehead, and the fixed orbs — though stone- 
blind at least to all real things — beneath them 
flashing fire. He had borne up bravely — -al- 
most to the last — but had some tongue sylla- 
bled his son's doom in the solitude, and at that 
instant had insanity smitten him! 

Such utter prostration of intellect had been 
expected by none ; for the old man, up to the 
very night before the Trial, had expressed the 
most confident trust of his son's acquittal. 
Nothing had ever served to shake his convic- 
tion of his innocence — tnough he had always 
forborne speaking about the circumstances of 
the murder — and had communicated to nobody 
any of the grounds cm which he more than 
hoped in a case so hopeless; and though a 
trouble in his eyes often gave the lie to his lip • • 
d2 



42 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



when he used to say to the silent neighbours, 
"We shall soon see him back at Moorside." 
Had his belief in his Ludovic's innocence, and 
his trust in God that that innocence would be 
established and set free, been so sacred, that 
the blow, when it did come, struck him like a 
hammer, and felled him to the ground, from 
which he had risen with a riven brain ? In 
whatever way the shock had been given, it had 
been terrible ; for old Gilbert Adamson was 
now a confirmed lunatic, and keepers were in 
Moorside — not keepers from a mad-house — for 
his daughter could not afford such tendence — 
but two of her brother's friends, who sat up 
with him alternately, night and day, while the 
arms of the old man, in his distraction, had to 
be bound with cords. That dreadful moaning 
was at an end now ; but the echoes of the hills 
responded to his yells and shrieks; and people 
were afraid to go near the house. It was pro- 
posed among the neighbours to take Alice and 
little Ann out of it ; and an asylum for them 
was in the Manse ; but Alice would not stir at 
all their entreaties ; and as, in such a case, it 
would have been too shocking to tear her away 
by violence, she was suffered to remain with 
him who knew her not, but who often — it was 
said — stared distractedly upon her, as if she 
had been some fiend sent in upon his insanity 
from the place of punishment. Weeks pass- 
ed on, and still she was there — hiding herself 
at times from those terrifying eyes ; and from 
her watching corner, waiting from morn till 
night, and from night till morn — for she sel- 
dom lay down to sleep, and had never undress- 
ed herself since that fatal sentence — for some 
moment of exhausted horror, when she might 
steal out, and carry some slight gleam of com- 
fort, however evanescent, to the glimmer or 
the gloom in which the brain of her Father 
swam through a dream of blood. But there 
were no lucid intervals; and ever as she mov- 
ed towards him, like a pitying angel, did he fu- 
riously rage against her, as if she had been a 
fiend. At last, she who, though yet so young, 
had lived to see the murdered corpse of her 
dearest friend — murdered by her own only 
brother, whom, in secret, that murdered maid- 
en had most tenderly loved — that murderous 
brother loaded with prison-chains, and con- 
demned to the gibbet for inexpiable and unpar- 
donable crimes — her father raving like a de- 
mon, self-murderous were his hands but free, 
nor visited by one glimpse of mercy from Him 
who rules the skies — after having borne more 
than, as she meekly said, had ever poor girl 
borne, she took to her bed quite heart-broken, 
and, the night before the day of execution, 
died. As for poor little Ann, she had been 
wiled away some weeks before; and in the 
blessed thoughtlessness of childhood, was not 
without hours of happiness among her play- 
mates on the braes. 

The Morning of that Day arose, and the 
Moor was all blackened with people round 
the tall gibbet, that seemed to have grown, 
with its horrid arms, out of the ground during 
the night. No sound of axes or hammers had 
been heard clinking during the dark hours — 
nothing had been seen passing along the road ; 
t the windows of all the houses from which 



any thing could have been seen, had been shut 
fast against all horrid sights — and the horses' 
hoofs and the wheels must have been muffled 
that had brought that hideous Framework to the 
Moor. But there it now stood — a dreadful 
Tree ! The sun moved higher and higher up 
the sky, and all the eyes of that congregation 
were at once turned towards the east, for a dull 
sound, as of rumbling wheels and trampling 
feet, seemed shaking the Moor in that direc- 
tion ; and lo ! surrounded with armed men on 
horseback, and environed with halberds, came 
on a cart, in which three persons seemed to be 
sitting, he in the middle all dressed in white — 
the death-clothes of the murderer — the unpity- 
ing shedder of most innocent blood. 

There was no bell to toll there — but at the 
very moment he was ascending the scaffold, a 
black cloud knelled thunder, and many hun- 
dreds of people all at once fell down upon their 
knees. The man in white lifted up his eyes, 
and said, " Lord God of Heaven ! and Thou 
his blessed Son, who died to save sinners ! ac- 
cept this sacrifice !" 

Not one in all that immense crowd could 
have known that that white apparition was 
Ludovic Adamson. His hair, that had been 
almost jet-black, was now white as his face — 
as his figure, dressed, as it seemed, for the 
grave. Are they going to execute the mur- 
derer in his shroud 1 Stone-blind, and stone- 
deaf, there he stood — yet had he, without help, 
walked up the steps of the sca?bld. A hymn 
of several voices arose — the ma.n of God close 
beside the criminal, with the Bible in his up- 
lifted hands ; but those bloodless lips had no 
motion — with him this world was not, though 
yet he was in life — in life, and no more ! And 
was this the man who, a few months ago, 
flinging the fear of death from him, as a flash 
of sunshine flings aside the shades, had de- 
scended into that pit which an hour before had 
been bellowing, as the foul vapours exploded 
like cannons, and brought up the bodies of 
them who had perished in the womb of the 
earth 1 Was this he who once leaped into the 
devouring fire, and re-appeared, after all had 
given over for lost the glorious boy, with an 
infant in his arms, while the flames seemed to 
eddy back, that they might scathe not the head 
of the deliverer, and a shower of blessings fell 
upon him as he laid it in its mother's bosom, 
and made the heart of the widow to sing for 
joy 1 It is he. And now the executioner pulls 
down the cord from the beam, and fastens it 
round the criminal's neck. His face is already 
covered, and that fatal handkerchief is in his 
hand. The whole crowd are now kneeling, 
and one multitudinous sob convulses the air; — 
when wild outcries, and shrieks, and yells, are 
at that moment heard from the distant gloom 
of the glen that opens up to Moorside, and 
three figures, one far in advance of the others, 
come flying, as on the wings of the wind, to 
the "gibbet. Hundreds started to their feet, and 
"'Tis the maniac — 'tis the lunatic!" was the 
cry. Precipitating himself down a rocky hill- 
side, that seemed hardly accessible but to the 
goats, the maniac, the lunatic, at a few despe- 
rate leaps and bounds, just as it was expected 
he would have been dashed in pieces, alighted 



TALE OF EXPIATION. 



43 



unstunned upon the level greensward; and 
now, far ahead of his keepers, with incredible 
swiftness neared the scaffold — and the dense 
crowd making a lane for him in their fear and 
astonishment, he flew np the ladder to the hor- 
rid platform, and grasping his son in his arms, 
howled dreadfully over him ; and then with a 
loud voice cried, " Saved — saved — saved !" 

So sudden toad been that wild rush, that all 
the officers of justice — the very executioner — 
stood aghast; and now the prisoner's neck is 
free from that accursed cord — his face is once 
more visible without that hideous shroud — and 
he sinks down senseless on the scaffold. 
" Seize him — seize him !" and he was seized — 
but no maniac — no lunatic — was the father 
now — for during the night, and during the 
dawn, and during the morn, and on to midday — 
on to the Hour of One — when all rueful pre- 
parations were to be completed — had Provi- 
dence been clearing and calming the tumult in 
that troubled brain; and as the cottage clock 
struck one, memory brightened at the chime 
into a perfect knowledge of the past, and pro- 
phetic imagination saw the future lowering 
upon the dismal present. All night long, with 
the cunning of a madman — for all night long 
he had still been mad — the miserable old man 
had been disengaging his hands from the ma- 
nacles, and that done, springing like a wild 
beast from his cage, he flew out of the open 
door, nor could a horse's speed on that fearful 
road have overtaken him before he reached the 
scaffold. 

No need was there to hold the miserable 
man. He who had been so furious in his ma- 
nacles at Moorside, seemed now, to the people 
at a distance, calm as when he used to sit in 
the elder's seat beneath the pulpit in that small 
kirk. But they who were near or on the scaf- 
fold, saw something horrid in the fixedness of 
his countenance. " Let go your hold of me, 
ye fools !" he muttered to some of the mean 
wretches of the law, who still had him in their 
clutch — and tossing his hands on high, cried 
with a loud voice, "Give ear, ye Heavens! 
and hear, O Earth ! I am the Violator — I am 
the Murderer !" 

The moor groaned as in earthquake — and 
then all that congregation bowed their heads 
with a rustling noise, like a wood smitten by the 
wind. Had they heard aright the unimagina- 
ble confession ] His head had long been gray 
-he had reached the term allotted to man's 
mortal life here below — threescore and ten. 
Morning and evening, never had the Bible 
been out of his hands at the hour set apart 
for family worship. And who so eloquent as 
he in expounding its most dreadful mysteries'? 
The unregenerate heart of man, he had ever 
said — in scriptural phrase — was " desperately 
wicked." Desperately wicked indeed! And 
now again he tossed his arms wrathfully — so 
the wild motion looked — in the wrathful skies. 
" I ravished — I murdered her — ye know it, ye 
evil spirits in the depths of hell !" Conster- 
nation now fell on the minds of all — and the 
truth was clear as light — and all eyes knew at 



once that now indeed they looked on the mur- 
derer. The dreadful delusion under which all 
their understandings had been brought by the 
power of circumstances, was by that voice 
destroyed — the obduracy of him who had been 
about to die was now seen to have been the 
most heroic virtue — the self-sacrifice of a son 
to save a father from ignominy and death. 

" O monster, beyond the reach of redemp- 
tion ! and the very day after the murder, while 
the corpse was lying in blood on the Moor, he 
was with us in the House of God ! Tear him 
in pieces — rend him limb from limb — tear him 
into a thousand pieces !" " The Evil One had 
power given him to prevail against me, and I 
fell under the temptation. It was so written in 
the Book of Predestination, and the deed lies 
at the door of God !" " Tear the blasphemer 
into pieces ! Let the scaffold drink his blood V* 
— " So let it be, if it be so written, good people ! 
Satan never left me since the murder till this 
day — he sat by my side in the kirk — when I 
was ploughing in the field — there — ever as I 
came back from the other end of the furrow — 
he stood on the headrig — in the shape of a black 
shadow. But now I see him not — he has re- 
turned to his den in the pit. I cannot imagine 
what I have been doing, or what has been done 
to me, all the time between the day of trial and 
this of execution. Was I mad ? No matter. 
But you shall not hang Ludovic — he, poor 
boy, is innocent ; — here, look at him — here — 
I tell you again — is the Violator and the Mur- 
derer!" 

But shall the men in authority dare to stay 
the execution at a maniac's words 1 If they 
dare not — that multitude will, now all rising 
together like the waves of the sea. " Cut the 
cords asunder that bind our Ludovic's arms" 
— a thousand voices cried ; and the murderer, 
unclasping a knife, that, all unknown to his 
keepers, he had worn in his breast when a 
maniac, sheared them asunder as the sickle 
shears the corn. But his son stirred not — and 
on being lifted up by his father, gave not so 
much as a groan. His heart had burst — and 
he was dead. No one touched the gray-headed 
murderer, who knelt down — not to pray — but 
to look into his son's eyes — and to examine 
his lips — and to feel his left breast — and to 
search out all the symptoms of a fainting-fit, 
or to assure himself — and many a corpse had 
the plunderer handled on the; field after hush 
of the noise of battle — that this was death. 
He rose ; and standing forward on the edge of 
the scaffold, said, with a voice that shook not, 
deep, strong, hollow, and hoarse — "Goodpeople! 
I am likewise now the murderer of my daugh- 
ter and of my son ! and of myself!" Next 
moment the knife was in his heart — and he fell 
down a corpse on the corpse of his Ludovic. 
All round the sultry horizon the black clouds 
had for hours been gathering — and now came 
the thunder and the lightning — and the storm. 
Again the whole multitude prostrated them- 
selves on the moor — an<* 'he Pastor, bending 
over the dead bodies, said", 

"This is Expiation!" 



44 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



MORNING MONOLOGUE. 



" Knowledge is Power." So is Talent — so 
is Genius — so is Virtue. Which is the great- 
est? It might seem hard to tell; but united, 
they go forth conquering and to conquer. Nor 
is that union rare. Kindred in nature, they 
love to dwell together in the same " palace of 
the soul." Remember Milton. But too often 
they are disunited; and then, though still 
Powers, they are but feeble, and their defeats 
are frequent as their triumphs. What! is it 
so even with Virtue 1 It is, and it is not. 
Virtue may reign without the support of Ta- 
lent and Genius ; but her counsellor is Con- 
science, and what is Conscience but Reason 
rich by birthright in knowledge directly de- 
rived from the heaven of heavens beyond all 
the stars ] 

And may Genius and Talent indeed be, con- 
ceive, and execute, without the support of 
Virtue] You will find that question answered 
in the following lines by Charles Grant, which 
deserve the name of philosophical poetry: — 

Talents, 'tis true, quick, various, bright, has God 
To Virtue oft denied, on Vice bestow'd ; 
Just as fond Nature lovelier colours brings 
To deck the insect's than the eagle's wings. 
But then of man the high-born nobler part, 
The ethereal energies that touch the heart, 
Creative Fancy, labouring Thought intense, 
Imagination's wild magnificence, 
And all the dread sublimities of Song — 
These, Virtue ! these to thee alone belong. 

Such is the natural constitution of humanity; 
and in the happiest state of social life, all its 
noblest Faculties would bear legitimate sway, 
each in its own province, within the spirit's 
ample domains. There, Genius would be 
honoured; and Poetry another name for reli- 
gion. But to such a state there can, under the 
most favouring skies, be no more than an ap- 
proximation ; and the time never was when 
Virtue suffered no persecution, Honour no 
shame, Genius no neglect, nor fetters were not 
imposed by tyrannous power on the feet of 
the free. The age of Homer, the age of Solon, 
the age of Pericles, the age of Numa, the age 
of Augustus, the age of Alfred, the age of Leo, 
the age of Elizabeth, the age of Anne, the age 
of Scott, Wordsworth, and Byron, have they 
not been all bright and great ages ] Yet had 
they been faithfully chronicled, over the mise- 
ry and madness of how many despairing spi- 
rits fraught with heavenly fire, might we not 
have been called to pour forth our unavailing 
indignations and griefs ! 

Under despotic governments, again, such as 
have sunk deep their roots into Oriental soils, 
and beneath Oriental skies prosperously ex- 
panded their long-enduring umbrage, where 
might is right, and submission virtue, noble- 
minded men — for sake of that peace which is 
ever dearest to the human heart, and if it de- 
scend not a glad and gracious gift from Heaven, 
will yet not ungratefully be accepted when 
breathed somewhat sadly from the quieted bo- 
som of earth by tyranny saved from trouble — 



sing " many a lovely lay," that perished like 
the flowers around them, in praise of the 
Power at whose footstool they " stooped their 
anointed heads as low as death." Even then 
has Genius been honoured, because though it 
ceased to be august, still it was beautiful ; it 
seemed to change fetters of iron into bands of 
roses, and to halo with a glory the brows of 
slaves. The wine-cup mantled in its light ; 
and Love forgot in the bower Poetry built for 
bliss, that the bride might be torn from the 
bridegroom's bosom on her bridal night by a 
tyrant's lust. Even there Genius was happy, 
and diffused happiness ; at its bidding was 
heard pipe, tabor, and dulcimer; and to his 
lips " Warbling melody" life floated by, in the 
midst of all oppression, a not undelightful 
dream ! 

But how has it been with us in our Green 
Island of the West] Some people are afraid of 
revolutions. Heaven pity them ! we have had 
a hundred since the Roman bridged our rivers, 
and led his highways over our mountains. 
And what the worse have we been of being 
thus revolved 1 ? We are no radicals; but we 
dearly love a revolution — like that of the stars. 
No two nights are the heavens the same — all 
the luminaries are revolving to the music of 
their own spheres — look, we beseech you, on 
that new-risen star. He is elected by universal 
suffrage — a glorious representative of a million 
lesser lights ; and on dissolution of that Parlia- 
ment — how silent but how eloquent ! — he is 
sure of his return. Why, we should dearly 
love the late revolution we have seen below — 
it is no longer called Reform — were it to fling 
up to free light from fettered darkness a few 
fine bold original spirits, who might give the 
whole world a new character, and a more ma- 
jestic aspect to crouching life. But we look 
abroad and see strutting to and fro the sons of 
little men blown up with vanity, in a land 
where tradition not yet old tells of a race of 
giants. We are ashamed of ourselves to think 
we feared the throes of the times, seeing not 
portentous but pitiable births. Brush these 
away; and let us think of the great dead — let 
us look on the great living — and, strong in me- 
mory and hope, be confident in the cause of 
Freedom. " Great men have been among us — 
better none ;" and can it be said that now there 
is " a want of books and. men," or that those 
we have, are mere dwarfs and duodecimos ] 
Is there no energy, no spirit of adventure and 
enterprise, no passion in the character of our 
country ] Has not wide over earth 

"England sent her men, of men the chief, 
To plant the Tree of Life, to plant fair Freedom's Tree V* 

Has not she, the Heart of Europe and the 
Queen, kindled America into life, and raised 
up in the New World a power to balance the 
Old, star steadying star in their unconflicting 
courses ] You can scarce see her shores for 
ships ; her inland groves are crested with 
towers and temples ; and mists brooding at in 



MORNING MONOLOGUE. 



45 



tervals over her far-extended plains, tell of 
towns and cities, their hum unheard by the 
gazer from her glorious hills. Of such a land 
it would need a gifted eye to look into all that 
is passing within the mighty heart; but it needs 
no gifted eye, no gifted ear, to see and hear 
there the glare and the groaning of great an- 
guish, as of lurid breakers tumbling in and 
out of the caves of the sea. But is it or is it 
not a land where all the faculties of the soul 
are free as they ever were since the. Fall ? 
Grant that there are tremendous abuses in all 
departments of public and private life; that 
rulers and legislator's have often been as deaf to 
the "still small voice" as to the cry of the mil- 
lion; that they whom they have ruled, and for 
whom they have legislated often so unwisely or 
wickedly, have been as often untrue to them- 
selves, and in self-imposed idolatry 
* "Have bow'd their knees 
To despicable gods;" 

Yet base, blind and deaf (and better dumb) 
must be he who would denj r , that here Genius 
has had, and now has her noblest triumphs; 
that Poetry has here kindled purer fires on 
loftier altars than ever sent up their incense 
to Grecian skies ; that Philosophy has sounded 
depths in which her torch was not extinguish- 
ed, but, though bright, could pierce not the 
" heart of the mystery" into which it sent some 
strong illuminations ; that Virtue here has had 
chosen champions, victorious in their martyr- 
dom ; and Religion her ministers and her ser- 
vants not unworthy of her whose title is from 
heaven. 

Causes there have been, are, and ever will 
be, why often, even here, the very highest fa- 
culties " rot in cold obstruction." But in all 
the ordinary affairs of life, have not the best 
the best chance to win the day ? Who, in 
general, achieve competence, wealth, splen- 
dour, magnificence, in their condition as citi- 
zens ? The feeble, the ignorant, and the base, 
or the strong, the instructed, and the bold? 
Would you, at the offstart, back mediocrity 
with alien influence, against high talent with 
none but its own — the native " might that 
slumbers in a peasant's arm," or, nobler far, 
that which neither sleeps nor slumbers in a 
peasant's heart? There is something abhorrent 
from every sentiment in man's breast to see, 
as we too often do, imbecility advanced to high 
places by the mere accident of high birth. 
But how our hearts warm within us to behold 
the base-born, if in Britain we may use the 
word, by virtue of their own irresistible ener- 
gies, taking precedence, rightful and gladly 
granted of the blood of kings ! Yet we have 
heard it whispered, insinuated, surmised, spo- 
ken, vociferated, howled, and roared in a voice 
of small-beer-souring thunder, that Church 
and State, Army and Navy, are all officered by 
the influence of the Back-stairs — that few or 
none but blockheads, by means of brass only, 
mount from the Bar which they have disturb- 
ed to that Bench which they disgrace; and 
that mankind intrust the cure of all diseases 
their flesh is heir to, to the exclusive care of 
every here and there a handful of old women. 

Whether overstocked or not, 'twould be hard 
to say, but all professions are full — from that 



of Peer to that of Beggar. To live is the most 
many of us can do. Why then complain? 
Men should not complain when it is their duty 
as men to work. Silence need not be sullen — 
but better sullenness than all this outrageous 
outcry, as if words the winds scatter, were to 
drop into the soil and grow up grain. Proces- 
sions ! is this a time for full-grown men in 
holyday shows to play the part of children? 
If they desire advancement, let them, like their 
betters, turn to and work. All men worth 
mentioning in this country belong to the work- 
ing classes. What seated Thurlow, and Wed- 
derburne, and Scott, and Erskine, and Copley, 
and Brougham on the woolsack? Work. 
What made Wellington ? For seven years 
war all over Spain, and finally at Waterloo — 
work — bloody and glorious work. N 

Yet still the patriot ciy is of sinecures. 
Let the few sluggards that possess but cannot 
enjoy them, doze away on them till sinecures 
and sinecurists drop into the dust. Shall such 
creatures disturb the equanimity of the mag- 
nanimous working-classes of England? True 
to themselves in life's great relations, they 
need not grudge, for a little while longer, the 
paupers a few paltry pence out of their earn- 
ings; for they know a sure and silent death- 
blow has been struck against that order of 
things by the sense of the land, and that all 
who receive wages must henceforth give work. 
AH along that has been the rule — these are the 
exceptions ; or say, that has been the law — 
these are its revolutions. Let there be high 
rewards, and none grudge them — in honour 
and gold — for high work. And men of high 
talents — never extinct — will reach up their 
hands and seize them, amidst the acclama- 
tions of a people who have ever taken pride 
in a great ambition. If the competition is to 
be in future more open than ever, to know it 
is so will rejoice the souls of all who are not 
slaves. But clear the course ! Let not the 
crowd rush in — for by doing so, they will bring 
down the racers, and be themselves trampled 
to death. 

Now we say that the race is — if not always 
— ninety-nine times in a hundred — to the swift, 
and the battle to the strong. We may have 
been fortunate in our naval and military 
friends; but we cannot charge our memory 
with a single consummate ass holding a dis- 
tinguished rank in either service. That such 
consummate asses are in both, we have been 
credibly informed, and believe it ; and we have 
sometimes almost imagined that we heard their 
bray at no great distance, and the flapping of 
their ears. Poor creatures enough do rise by 
seniority or purchase, or if anybody knows 
how else, we do not; and such will be the 
case to the end of the chapter of human acci- 
dents. But merit not only makes the man, 
but the officer on shore and at sea. They are 
as noble and discontented a set of fellows all, 
as ever boarded or stormed; and they will 
continue so, not till some change in the Ad- 
miralty, or at the Horseguards, for Sir James 
Grahame does his duty, and so does Lord Hill; 
but till a change in humanity, for 'tis no more 
than Adam did, and we attribute whatever may 
be amiss or awry, chiefly to the Fall. Let the 



46 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



radicals set poor human nature on her legs 
again, and what would become of them? In 
the French service there is no rising at all, it 
seems, but by merit ; but there is also much 
running away; not in a disgraceful style, for 
our natural enemies, and artificial friends are 
a brave race, but in mere indignation and dis- 
gust to see troops so shamefully ill-officered as 
ours, which it would be a disgrace to look in 
the face on the field, either in column or line. 
Therefore they never stand a charge, but are 
off in legions of honour, eagles and all, before 
troops that have been so uniformly flogged 
from time immemorial, as to have no other 
name but raw lobsters, led on by officers all 
shivering or benumbed under the " cold shade 
of aristocracy," like Picton and Pack. 

We once thought of going ourselves to the 
English Bar, but were dissuaded from doing 
so by some judicious friends, who assured us 
we should only be throwing away our great 
talents and unexampled eloquence; for that 
success depended solely on interest, and we 
had none we knew of, either in high places or 
in low, and had then never seen an attorney. 
We wept for the fate of many dear friends in 
wigs, and made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. 
On our return from Palestine and other foreign 
parts, behold them all bending under briefs, 
bound by retaining fees, or like game-hawks, 
wheeling in airy circuits over the rural pro- 
vinces, and pouncing down on their prey, 
away to their eyries with talon-fulls, which 
they devoured at their luxurious leisure, un- 
troubled by any callow young! They now 
compose the Bench. 

Ere we set off for Salem, we had thoughts 
of entering the Church, and of becoming Bi- 
shops. But 'twas necessary, we were told, 
first to be tutor to a lord. That, in our pride, 
we could not stomach; but if ours had not 
been the sin by which Satan fell, where now 
had been the excellent Howley 1 ? All our 
habits in youth led us to associate much with 
intending divines. A few of them are still 
curates ; but 'twere vain to try to count the 
vicars, rectors, canons, deans, archdeacons, 
and bishops, with whom, when we were all 
under-graduates together at Oxford, we used to 
do nothing but read Greek all day, and Latin 
all night. Yet you hear nothing but abuse of 
such a Church ! and are told to look at the 
Dissenters. We do look at them, and an 
uglier set we never saw ; not one in a hundred, 
in his grimness, a gentleman. Not a single 
scholar have they got to show, and now that 
Hall is mute, not one orator. Their divinity 
is of the dust — and their discourses dry bones. 
Down with the old Universities — up with new. 
The old are not yet down, but the new are up ; 
and how dazzling the contrast, even to the 
purblind! You may hew down trees, but not 
towers ; and Granta and Rhedicyna will show 
their temples to the sun, ages after such struc- 
tures shall have become hospitals. They en- 
lighten the land. Beloved are they by all the 
gentlemen of England. Even the plucked think 
of them with tears of filial reverence, and 
having renewed their plumage, clap their 
wings and crow defiance to all their foes. A 
man, you say, can get there no education to 



fit him for life. Bah ! Tell that to the marines. 
Now and then one meets a man eminent in a 
liberal profession, who has not been at any 
place that could easily be called a College. 
But the great streams of talent in England 
keep perpetually flowing from the gates of her 
glorious Universities — and he who would deny 
it in any mixed company of leading men in 
London, would only have to open his eyes in 
the hush that rebuked his folly, to see that he 
was a Cockney, clever enough, perhaps, in 
his own small way, and the author of some 
sonnets, but even to his own feelings painfully 
out of place among men who had not studied 
at the Surrey. 

We cannot say that we have any fears, this 
fine clear September morning, for the Church 
of England in England. In Ireland, deserted 
and betrayed, it has received a dilapidating 
shock. Fain would seven millions* of " the 
finest people on the earth," and likewise the 
most infatuated, who are so proud of the ver- 
dure of their isle, that they love to make " the 
green one red." see the entire edifice over- 
thrown, not one stone left upon another, and 
its very name smothered in a smoky cloud of 
ascending dust. They have told us so in yells, 
over which has still been heard " the wolf's 
long howl," the savage cry of the O'ConnelL 
And Ministers who pretend to be Protestants, 
and in reform have not yet declared against 
the Reformation, have tamely yielded, recreants 
from the truth, to brawlers who would pull 
down her holiest altars, and given up " pure 
religion, breathing household laws," a sacrifice 
to superstition. But there is a power enshrined 
in England which no Government dare seek to 
desecrate — in the hearts of the good and wise, 
grateful to an establishment that has guarded 
Christianity from corruption, and is venerated 
by all the most enlightened spirits who con- 
scientiously worship without its pale, and 
know that in the peaceful shadow of its 
strength repose their own humbler and un- 
troubled altars. 

We have been taking a cheerful — a hopeful 
view of our surrounding world, as it is in- 
closed within these our seas, whose ideal mur- 
mur seemed awhile to breathe in unison with 
our Monologue. We have been believing, that 
in this our native land, the road of merit is 
the road to success — say happiness. And is 
not the law the same in the world of Litera- 
ture and the Fine Arts 1 Give a great genius 
any thing like fair play, and he will gain glory, 
nay bread. True, he may be before his age, 
and may have to create his worshippers. But 
how few such ! And is it a disgrace to an age 
to produce a genius whose grandeur it cannot 
all at once comprehend? The works of genius 
are surely not often incomprehensible to the' 
highest contemporary minds, and if they win 
their admiration, pity not the poor Poet. But 
pray syllable the living Poet's name who has 
had reason to complain of having fallen on. 
evil days, or who is with " darkness and with 
danger compassed round." From humblest 
birth-places in the obscurest nooks frequently 
have we seen 

" The fulgent head 
Star-bright appear ;" 



MORNING MONOLOGUE. 



47 



from unsuspected rest among the water-lilies 
of the mountain-mere, the snow-white swan in 
full plumage soar into the sky. Hush ! no 
nonsense about Wordsworth. "Far-off his 
coming shone ;" and what if, for a while, men 
knew not whether 'twas some mirage-glimmer, 
or the dawming of a new " orb of song !" 

We have heard rather too much even from 
that great poet about the deafness and blind- 
ness of the present time. No Time but the 
future, he avers, has ears or eyes for divine 
music and light. Was Homer in his own day 
obscure, or Shakspeare? But Heaven forbid 
we should force the bard into an argument ; 
we allow him to sit undisturbed by us in the 
bower nature delighted to build for him, with 
small help from his own hands, at the dim end 
of that alley green, among lake-murmur and 
mountain-shadow, for ever haunted by enno- 
bling visions. But we love and respect present 
Time — partly, we confess, because he has 
shown some little kindly feeling for ourselves, 
whereas we fear Future Time may forget us 
among many others of his worthy father's 
friends, and the name of Christopher North 
"Die on his ears a faint unheeded sound." 

But Present Time has Dot been unjust to Wil- 
liam Wordsworth. Some small temporalities 
were so ; imps running about the feet of Pre- 
sent Time, and sometimes making him stum- 
ble : but on raising his eyes from the ground, 
he saw something shining like an Apparition 
on the mountain top, and he hailed, and with 
a friendly voice, the advent of another true 
Poet of nature and of man. 

We must know how to read that prophet, be- 
fore we preach from any text in his book of 
revelations. 

"We poets in our youth begin in gladness, 
But thereof comes in the end despondency and madness." 

Why spoke he thus 1 Because a deep dark- 
ness had fallen upon him all alone in a moun- 
tain-cave, and he quaked before the mystery 
of man's troubled life. 

"He thought of Chatterton, the marvellous boy, 
The sleepless soul that perish'd in his pride ; 
Of him who walk'd in glory and in joy, 
Following his plough upon the mountain side ;" 

and if they died miserably, " How may I 
perish !" But they wanted wisdom. There- 
fore the marvellous boy drank one bowl drug- 
ged with sudden, and the glorious ploughman 
many bowls drugged with lingering death. If 
we must weep over the woes of Genius, let us 
know for whom we may rightly shed our tears. 
With one drop of ink you may write the names 
of all 

" The mighty Poets in their misery dead." 

Wordsworth wrote those lines, as we said, in 
the inspiration of a profound but not permanent 
melancholy; and they must not be profaned 
by being used as a quotation in defence of 
accusations against human society, which, 
in some lips, become accusations against 
Providence. The mighty Poets have been 
not only wiser, but happier than they knew; 
and what glory from heaven and earth was 
poured over their inward life, up to the very 
moment it darkened away into the gloom of 
the grave ! 



Many a sad and serious hour have we read 
D'Israeli, and many a lesson may all lovers of 
literature learn from his well-instructed books. 
But from the unhappy stories therein so feel- 
ingly and eloquently narrated, has many "a 
famous ape" drawn conclusions the very 
reverse of those which he himself leaves to be 
drawn by all minds possessed of any philoso- 
phy. Melancholy the moral of these moving 
tales ; but we must look for it, not into the 
society that surrounds us, though on it too we 
must keep a watchful, and, in spite of all its 
| sins, a not irreverent eye, but into our own 
i hearts. There lies the source of evil which 
! some evil power perhaps without us stirs up 
I till it wells over in misery. Then fiercely 
J turns the wretch first against " the world and 
\ the world's law," both sometimes iniquitous, 
j and last of all against the rebellious spirit in 
| his own breast, but for whose own innate cor- 
ruption his moral being would have been vic- 
J torious against all outward assaults, violent or 
insidious, "and to the end persisting safe 
arrived." 

Many men of genius have died without their 
fame, and for their fate w r e may surely mourn, 
without calumniating our kind. It was their 
lot to die. Such was the will of God. Many 
such have come and gone, ere they knew them- 
selves what they were ; their brothers, and 
sisters, and friends knew it not; knew it not 
their fathers and mothers ; nor the village 
maidens on whose bosoms they laid their dying 
heads. Many, conscious of the divine flame, 
and visited by mysterious stirrings that would 
not let them rest, have like vernal wild-flowers 
withered, or been cut down like young trees in 
the season of leaf and blossom. Of this our 
mortal life what are these but beautiful evan- 
ishings ! Such was our young Scottish Poet, 
Michael Bruce — a fine scholar, who taught a 
little wayside school, and died, a mere lad, of 
consumption. Loch Leven Castle, where Mary 
Stuart was imprisoned, looks not more melan- 
choly among the dim waters for her than for 
its own Poet's sake ! The linnet, in its joy 
among the yellow broom, sings not more 
sweetly than did he in his sadness, sitting 
beside his unopened grave, " one song that will 
not die," though the dirge but draw now and 
then a tear from some simple heart. 

"Now spring returns — but not to me returns 

The vernal joy my better years have known ; 
Dim in my breast life's dying taper burns, 
And all'the joys of life with health are flown." 

To young Genius to die is often a great 
gain. The green leaf was almost hidden in 
blossoms, and the tree put forth beautiful 
promise. Cold winds blew, and clouds inter- 
cepted the sunshine ; but it felt the dews of 
heaven, and kept flourishing fair even in the 
moonlight, deriving sweet sustenance from the 
stars. But would all those blossoms have 
been fruit? Many would have formed, but 
more perhaps dropt in unperceived decay, and 
the tree which " all eyes that looked on loved," 
■might not have been the pride of the garden. 
Death could not permit the chance of such dis- 
appointment, stepped kindly in, and lett the 
spring-dream " sweet but mournful to the soul," 
among its half-fancied memories. Such was 



48 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



the fate, perhaps, of Henry Kirke White. His 
fine moral and intellectual being was not left 
to pine away neglected; and if, in gratitude 
and ambition, twin-births in that noble heart, 
he laid down his life for sake of the lore he 
loved, let us lament the dead with no passion- 
ate ejaculations over injustice by none com- 
mitted, console ourselves with the thought, in 
noways unkind to his merits, that he died in a 
mild bright spring that might have been suc- 
ceeded by no very glorious summer; and that, 
fading away as he did among the tears of tlje 
good and great, his memory has been em- 
balmed, not only in his own gentle inspirations, 
but in the immortal eulogy of Southey. But, 
alas! many thus endowed by. nature "have 
waged with fortune an unequal war;" and 
pining away in poverty and disappointment, 
have died broken-hearted — and been buried — 
some in unhonoured — some even in unwept 
graves ! And how many have had a far more 
dismal lot, because their life was not so inno- 
cent ! The children of misfortune, but of error 
too — of frailty, vice, and sin. Once gone 
astray, with much to tempt them on, and no 
voice, no hand, to draw them back, theirs has 
been at first a flowery descent to death, but 
soon sorely beset with thorns, lacerating the 
friendless wretches, till, with shame and re- 
morse their sole attendants, they have tottered 
into uncoffined holes and found peace. 

With sorrows and sufferings like these, it 
would be hardly fair to blame society at large 
for having little or no sympathy; for they are, 
in the most affecting cases, borne in silence, 
and are unknown even to the generous and 
humane in their own neighbourhood, who 
might have done something or much to afford 
encouragement or relief. Nor has Charity 
always neglected those who so well deserved 
her open hand, and in their virtuous poverty 
might, without abatement of honourable pride 
in themselves, have accepted silent succour to 
silent distress. Pity that her blessings should 
be so often intercepted by worthless applicants, 
on their way, it may be said, to the magnani- 
mous who have not applied at all, but spoken 
to her heart in a silent language, which was 
not meant even to express the penury it be- 
trayed. But we shall never believe that dew 
twice blessed seldom descends, in such a land 
as ours, on the noble young head that else had 
sunk like a chance flower in some dank shade, 
left to wither among weeds. We almost ven- 
ture to say, that much of such unpitied, be- 
cause often unsuspected suffering, cannot cease 
to be without a change in the moral govern- 
ment of the world. 

Nor has Genius a right to claim from Con- 
science what is due but to Virtue. None who 
love humanity can wish to speak harshly of 
its mere frailties or errors — but none who 
revere morality can allow privilege to its 
sins. All who sin suffer, with or without 
genius ; and we are nowhere taught in the 
New Testament, that remorse in its agony, 
and penitence in its sorrow, visit men's ima- 
ginations only ; but whatever way they enter, 
their rueful dwelling is in the heart. Poets 
s'hed no bitterer tears than ordinary men ; and 
Fonblanque finely showed us, in one of his late 



little essays, clear as wells and deep as tarns, 
that so far from their being any thing in the 
constitution of genius naturally kindred either 
to vice or misery, it is framed of light and love 
and happiness, and that its sins and sufferings 
come not from the spirit but from the flesh. 
Yet is its flesh as firm, and perhaps somewhaj 
finer than that of the common clay ; but still 
it is clay — for all men are dust. 

But what if they who, on the ground of ge- 
nius, claim exemption from our blame, and 
inclusion within our sympathies, even when 
seen suffering from their own sins, have no 
genius at all, but are mere ordinary men, and 
but for the fumes of some physical excitement, 
which they mistake for the airs of inspiration, 
are absolutely stupider than people generally 
go, and even without any tolerable abilities for 
alphabetical education 1 Many such run ver- 
sifying about, and will not try to settle down 
into an easy sedentary trade, till getting thirsty 
through perpetual perspiration, they take to 
drinking, come to you with subscription-papers 
for poetry, with a cock in their eye that tells of 
low tippling houses, and, accepting your half- 
crown, slander you when melting it in the 
purling purlieus of their own donkey-browsed 
Parnassus. 

Can this age be fairly charged — we speak of 
England and Scotland — with a shameful in- 
difference — or worse — a cruel scorn — or worse 
still — a barbarous persecution of young per- 
sons of humble birth, in whom there may ap- 
pear a promise of talent, or of genius 1 Many 
are the scholars in whom their early benefac- 
tors have had reason to be proud of themselves, 
while they have been happy to send their sons 
to be instructed in the noblest lore, by men 
whose boyhood they had rescued from the 
darkness of despair, and clothed it with the 
warmth and light of hope. And were we to 
speak of endowments in schools and colleges, 
in which so many fine scholars have been 
brought up from among the humbler classes, 
who but for them had been bred to some mean 
handicraft, we should show better reason still 
for believing that moral and intellectual worth 
is not overlooked, or left to pine neglected in 
obscure places, as it is too much the fashion 
with a certain set of discontented declaimers 
to give out; but that in no other country has 
such provision been made for the meritorious 
children of the enlightened poor as in England. 
But we fear that the talent and the genius 
which, according to them, have been so often 
left or sent to beggary, to the great reproach 
even of our national character, have not been 
of a kind which a thoughtful humanity would 
in its benefactions have recognised; for it 
looks not with very hopeful eyes on mere ir- 
regular sallies of fancy, least of all when spurn- 
ing prudence and propriety, and symptomatic 
of a mental constitution easily excited, but 
averse to labour, and insensible to the delight 
labour brings with it, when the faculties are all 
devoted in steadfastness of purpose to the ac- 
quisition of knowledge and the attainment of 
truth. 

'Tis not easy to know, seeing it so difficult 
to define it, whether this or that youth who 
thinks he has genius, has it or not; the only 



MORNING MONOLOGUE. 



49 



proof he may hare given of it is perhaps a 
few copies of verses, which breathe the animal 
gladness of young life, and are tinged with 
tints of the beautiful, which joy itself, more 
imaginative than it ever again will be, steals 
from the sunset; but sound sense, and judg- 
ment, and taste, which is sense and judg- 
ment of all finest feelings and thoughts, and 
the love of light dawning on the intellect, and 
ability to gather into knowledge facts near and 
from afar, till the mind sees systems, and in 
them understands the phenomena which, when 
looked at singly, perplexed the pleasure of the 
sight — these, and aptitudes and capacities and 
powers such as these, are indeed of promise, 
and more than promise ; they are already per- 
formance, and justify in minds thus gifted, and 
in those who watch their workings, hopes of a 
wiser and happier future when the boy shall 
be a man. 

Perhaps too much honour, rather than too 
little, has been shown by his age to mediocre 
poetry and other works of fiction. A few 
gleams of genius have given some writers 
of little worth a considerable reputation; and 
great waxed the pride of poetasters. But true 
poetry burst in beauty over the land, and we 
became intolerant of "false glitter." Fresh 
sprang its flowers from the "daedal earth," or 
seemed, they were so surpassingly beautiful, 
as if spring had indeed descended from heaven, 
"veiled in a shower of shadowing roses," and 
no longer could we suffer young gentlemen and 
ladies, treading among the profusion, to gather 
the glorious scatterings, and weaving them into 
fantastic or even tasteful garlands, to present 
them to us, as if they had been raised from 
the seed of their own genius, and entitled 
therefore " to bear their name in the wild 
woods." This flower-gathering, pretty pas- 
time though it be, and altogether innocent, fell J 
into disrepute; and then all such florists be- 
gan to complain of being neglected, or de- 
spised, or persecuted, and their friends to la- 
ment over their fate, the fate of all genius, " in 
amorous ditties all a summer's day." 

Besides the living poets of highest rank, 
are there not many whose claims to join the 
sacred band have been allowed, because their 
lips, too, have sometimes been touched with a 
fire from heaven ] Second-rate indeed! Ay, 
well for those who are third, fourth, or fifth- 
rate — knowing where sit Homer, Shakspeare, 
and Milton. Round about Parnassus run ma?iy 
parallel roads, with forests "of cedar and 
branching palm between," overshadowing the 
sunshine on each magnificent level with a 
sense of something more sublime still nearer 
the forked summit; and each band, so that 
they be not ambitious overmuch, in their own 
region may wander or repose in grateful bliss. 
Thousands look up with envy from " the low- 
lying fields of the beautiful land" immediately 
without the line that goes wavingly asweep 
round the base of the holy mountain, separating 
it from the common earth. What clamour and 
what din from the excluded crowd ! Many are 
heard there to whom nature has been kind, but 
they have not yet learned " to know them- 
selves," or they would retire, but not afar off, 
and in silence adore. And so they do erelong, 
7 



and are happy in the sight of "the beauty still 
more beauteous" revealed to their fine percep- 
tions, though to them was not given the faculty 
that by combining in spiritual passion creates. 
But what has thither brought the self-deceived, 
who will not be convinced of their delusion, 
even were Homer or Milton's very self to 
frown on them with eyes no longer dim, but 
angry in their brightness like lowering stars 1 

But we must beware — perhaps too late — of 
growing unintelligible, and ask you, in plainer 
terms, if you do not think that by far the great- 
est number of all those who raise an outcry 
against the injustice of the world to men of 
genius, are persons of the meanest abilities, 
who have all their lives been foolishly fighting 
with their stars 1 Their demons have not 
whispered to them " have a taste," but " you 
have genius," and the world gives the demons 
the lie. Thence anger, spite, rancour, and 
envy eat their hearts, and they "rail against 
the Lord's anointed." They set up idols of 
clay, and fall down and worship them — or idols 
of brass, more worthless than clay ; or they 
perversely, and in hatred, not in love, pretend 
reverence for the Fair and Good, because, for- 
sooth, placed by man's ingratitude too far in 
the shade, whereas man's pity has, in deep 
compassion, removed the objects of their love, 
because of their imperfections not blameless, 
back in among that veiling shade, that their 
beauty might still be visible, while their de- 
formities were hidden in "a dim religious 
light." 

Let none of the sons or daughters of genius 
hearken to such outcry but with contempt — 
and at all times with suspicion, when they find 
themselves the objects of such lamentations. 
The world is not — at least does not wish to be, 
an unkind, ungenerous, and unjust world 
Many who think themselves neglected, are far 
more thought of than they suppose ; just as 
many, who imagine the world ringing with their 
name, are in the world's ears nearly anony- 
mous. Only one edition or two of your poems 
have sold — but is it not pretty well that five 
hundred or a thousand copies have been read, 
or glanced over, or looked at, or skimmed, or- 
skipped, or fondled, or petted, or tossed aside, 
"between malice and true love," by ten times 
that number of your fellow-creatures, not one 
of whom ever saw your face ; while many mil- 
lions of men, nearly your equals, and not a few 
millions your superiors far, have contentedly 
dropt into the grave, at the close of a long life, 
without having once " invoked the Muse," and 
who would have laughed in your face had you 
talked to them, even in their greatest glee, 
about their genius. 

There is a glen in the Highlands (dearly be- 
loved Southrons, call on us, on your way 
through Edinburgh, and we shall delight to 
instruct you how to walk our mountains) 
called Glencro — very unlike Glenco. A good 
road winds up the steep ascent, and at the 
summit there is a stone seat, on which you 
read, "Rest and be thankful." You do so — and 
are -not a little proud — if pedestrians — of your 
achievement. Looking up. you see cliffs high 
above your head, (not the Cobbler,) and m the 
clear sky, as far above them, a balanced bird. 



BO 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



Vou envy him his seemingly motionless wings, 
and wonder at his air-supporters. Down he 
darts, or aside he shoots, or right up he soars, 
and you wish you were an Eagle. You have 
reached Rest-and-be-thankful, yet rest you will 
not, and thankful you will not be, and you scorn 
the mean inscription, which many a worthier 
wayfarer has blessed, while sitting on that 
stone he has said, "give us this day our daily 
bread," eat his crust, and then walked away 
contented down to Cairndow. Just so it has 
been with you sitting at your appointed place 
— pretty high up — on the road to the summit 
of the Biforked Hill. You look up and see 
Byron — there "sitting where you may not 



soar," — and w r ish you were a great Poet. But 
you are no more a great Poet than an Eagle 
eight feet from wing-tip to wing-tip — and will 
not rest-and-be-thankful that you are a man 
and a Christian. Nay, you are more, an author 
of no mean repute; and your prose is allowed 
to be excellent, better far than the best para- 
graph in this our Morning Monologue. But 
you are sick of walking, and nothing will sa- 
tisfy you but to fly. Be contented, as we are, 
with feet, and weep not for wings ; and let us 
take comfort together from a cheering quota- 
tion from the philosophic Gray — 

"For they that creep, and they that fly, 
Just end where they began." 



THE FIELD OF FLOWERS. 



A May-morning on TJlswater and the banks 
of Ulswater — commingled earth and heaven ! 
Spring is many-coloured as Autumn ; but now 
Joy scatters the hues daily brightening into 
greener life, then Melancholy dropt them daily 
dimming into yellower death. The fear of 
Winter then — but now the hope of Summer; 
and Nature rings with hymns hailing the visi- 
ble advent of the perfect year. If for a mo- 
ment the woods are silent, it is but to burst 
forth anew into louder song. The rain is over 
and gone — but the showery sky speaks in the 
streams on a hundred hills; and the wide 
mountain gloom opens its heart to the sun- 
shine, that on many a dripping precipice burns 
like fire. Nothing seems inanimate. The 
very clouds and their shadows look alive — the 
trees, never dead, are wide-aw r akened from 
their sleep — families of flowers are frequenting 
all the dewy places — old walls are splendid 
with the light of lichens — and birch-crowned 
cliffs up among the coves send down their fine 
fragrance to the Lake on every bolder breath 
that whitens with breaking wavelets the blue 
of its breezy bosom. Nor mute the voice of 
man. The shepherd is whooping on the hill 
— the ploughman calling to his team some- 
where among the furrow r s in some small late 
field, won from the woods ; and you hear the 
laughter and the echoes of the laughter — one 
sound — of children busied in half-work, half- 
.play; for what else in vernal sunshine is the 
occupation of young rustic life 1 'Tis no 
Arcadia — no golden age. But a lovelier scene 
—in the midst of all its grandeur — is not in 
merry and majestic England; nor did the hills 
of this earth ever circumscribe a pleasanter 
dwelling for a nobler peasantr}-, than these 
•Cumbrian ranges of rocks and pastures, where 
the raven croaks in his own region, unre- 
garded in theirs by the fleecy flocks. How 
beautiful the Church Tower ! - - 

On a knoll not far from the shore, and not 
nigh above the water, yet by an especial feli- 
city of ^a'ie gently commanding all that reach 



of the Lake with all its ranges of mountains — 
every single tree, every grove, and all the 
woods seeming to show or to conceal the scene 
at the bidding of the Spirit of Beauty — reclined 
two Figures — the one almost rustic, but vene- 
rable in the simplicity of old age — the other 
no longer young, but still in the prime of life — 
and though plainly apparelled, with form and 
bearing such as are pointed out in cities, 
because belonging to distinguished men. The 
old man behaved towards him with deference 
but not humility; and between them too — in 
many things unlike — it was clear even from 
their silence that there was Friendship. 

A little way off, and sometimes almost run- 
ning, now up and now down the slopes and 
hollows, was a girl about eight years old — 
whether beautiful or not you could not know, 
for her face was either half-hidden in golden 
hair, or when she tossed the tresses from her 
brow, it was so bright in the sunshine that you 
saw no features, only a gleam of joy. Now 
she was chasing the butterflies, not to hurt 
them, but to get a nearer sight of their delicate 
gauze wings — the first that had come — she 
wondered whence — to weaver and wanton for a 
little while in the spring-sunshine, and then, 
she felt, as wondrously, one and all as by con- 
sent, to vanish. And now she stooped as if to 
pull some little wild-flower, her hand for a 
moment withheld by a loving sense of its 
loveliness, but ever and anon adding some new 
colour to the blended bloom intended to glad- 
den her father's eyes — though the happy child 
knew full w r ell, and sometimes wept to know, 
that she herself had his entire heart. Yet 
gliding, or tripping, or dancing along, she 
touched not with fairy foot one white clover- 
flower on w r hich she saw working the silent 
bee. Her father looked too often sad, and she 
feared — though what it w r as, she imagined not 
even in dreams — that some great misery must 
have befallen him before they came to live in 
the glen. And such, too, she had heard from 
a chance whisper, was the belief of their neigh 



THE FIELD OF FLOWERS. 



51 



bours. But momentary the shadows on the 
light of childhood ! Nor was she insensible to 
her own beauty, that with the innocence it en- 
shrined combined to make her happy ; and first 
met her own eyes every morning, when most 
beautiful, awakening from the hushed awe of 
her prayers. She was clad in russet, like a 
cottager's child ; but her air spoke of finer 
breeding than may be met with among those 
mountains — though natural grace accompanies 
there many a maiden going with her pitcher to 
the well — and gentle blood and old flows there 
in the veins of now humble men — who, but for 
the decay of families once high, might have 
lived in halls, now dilapidated, and scarcely 
distinguished through masses of ivy from the 
circumjacent rocks ! 

The child stole close behind her father, and 
kissing his cheek, said, " Were there ever such 
lovely flowers seen on Ulswater before, father 1 
I do not believe that they will ever die." And 
she put them in his breast. Not a smile came 
to his countenance — no look of love — no faint 
recognition — no gratitude for the gift which at 
other times might haply have drawn a tear. 
She stood abashed in the sternness of his eyes, 
which, though fixed on her, seemed to see her 
not ; and feeling that her glee was mistimed — 
for with such gloom she was not unfamiliar — 
the child felt as if her own happiness had been 
sin, and, retiring into a glade among the broom, 
sat down and wept. 

" Poor wretch, better far that she never had 
been born !" 

The old man looked on his friend with com- 
passion, but with no surprise ; and only said, 
" God will dry up her tears." 

These few simple words, uttered in a solemn 
voice, but without one tone of reproach, 
seemed somewhat to calm the other's trouble, 
who first looking towards the spot where his 
child was sobbing to herself, though he heard 
it not, and then looking up to heaven, ejacu- 
lated for her sake a broken prayer. He then 
would have fain called her to him; but he was 
ashamed that even she should see him in such 
a passion of grief — and the old man went to 
her of his own accord, and bade her, as from 
her father, again to take her pastime among 
the flowers. Soon was she dancing in her 
happiness as before; and, that her father might 
hear she was obeying him, singing a song. 

"For five years every Sabbath have I at- 
tended divine service in your chapel — yet dare 
I not call myself a Christian. I have prayed 
for faith — ncr, wretch that I am, am I an un- 
believer. But I fear tc fling myself at the foot 
of the cross. God be merciful to me a sin- 
ner !" 

The old man opened not his lips ; for he felt 
that there was about to be made some confes- 
sion. Yet he -doubted not that the sufferer 
had been more sinned against than sinning ; 
for the goodness of the stranger — so called 
still after five years' residence among the moun- 
tains — was known in many a vale — and the 
Pastor knew that charity covereth a multitude 
of sins — and even as a moral virtue prepares 
the heart for heaven. So sacred a thing is 
solace in this woful world. 

" We have walked together, many hundred 



times, for great part of a day, by ourselves 
two, over long tracts of uninhabited moors, 
and yet never once from my lips escaped one 
word about my fates or fortunes — so frozen 
was the secret in my heart. Often have I 
heard the sound of your voice, as if it were 
that of the idle wind ; and often the words I 
did hear seemed, in the confusion, to have no 
relation to us, to be strange syllablings in the 
wilderness, as from the haun tings of some evil 
spirit instigating me to self-destruction." 

" I saw that your life was oppressed by some 
perpetual burden ; but God darkened not your 
mind while your heart was disturbed so griev- 
ously ; and well pleased were we all to think, 
that in caring so kindly for the griefs of others, 
you might come at last to forget your own ; or 
if that were impossible, to feel, that with the 
alleviations of time, and sympathy, and re- 
ligion, yours was no more than the common 
lot of sorrow." 

They rose — and continued to walk in silence 
— but not apart — up and down that small silvan 
enclosure overlooked but by rocks. The child 
saw her father's distraction — no unusual sight 
to her; yet on each recurrence as mournful 
and full of fear as if seen for the first time — 
and pretended to be playing aloof with her 
face pale in tears. 

" That child's mother is not dead. Where 
she is now I know n#t — perhaps in a foreign 
country hiding her guilt and her shame. All 
say that a lovelier child was never seen than 
that wretch — God bless her — how beautiful is 
the poor creature now in her happiness sing- 
ing over her flowers ! Just such another must 
her mother have been at her age. She is now 
an outcast — and an adulteress." 

The pastor turned away his face, for in the 
silence he heard groans, and the hollow voice 
again spoke : — 

"Through many dismal days and nights 
have T striven to forgive her, but never for 
many hours together have I been enabled tc 
repent my curse. For on my knees I implored 
God to curse her — her head — her eyes — her 
breast — her body — mind, heart, and soul — and 
that she might go down a loathsome leper to 
the grave." 

" Remember what He said to the woman — 
' Go, and sin no more !' " 

" The words have haunted me all up and 
down the hills — his words and mine ; but mine 
have always sounded liker justice at last — for 
my nature was created human — and human 
are all the passions that pronounced that holy 
or unholy curse !" 

"Yet you would not curse her now — were 
she laying here at your feet — or if you were 
standing by her death-bed 1" 

"Lying here at my feet! Even here— on 
this very spot — not blasted, but green through 
all the year — within the shelter of these two 
rocks — she did lie at my feet in her beauty — 
and as I thought her innocence — my own hap 
py bride ! Hither I brought her to be blest— 
and blest I was even up to the measure of my 
misery. This world is hell to me now — but 
then it was heaven !" 

" These awful names are of the myjsteriejt 
beyond the grave." 



52 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



" Hear me and judge. She was an orphan ; all 
her father's and mother's relations were dead. 
but a few who were very poor. I married her, 
and secured her life against this heartless and 
wicked world. That child was born — and 
while it grew like a flower — she left it — and 
its father — we who loved her beyond light and 
life, and would have given up both for her 
sake." 

" And have not yet found heart to forgive 
her — miserable as she needs must be — seeing 
she has been a great sinner !" 

" Who forgives? The father his profligate 
son, or disobedient daughter 1 No ; he disin- 
herits his first-born, and suffers him to perish, 
perhaps by an ignominious death. He leaves 
his only daughter to drag out her days in 
penury — a widow with orphans. The world 
may condemn, but is silent ; he goes to church 
every Sabbath, but no preacher denounces 
punishment on the unrelenting, the unforgiving 
parent. Yet how easily might he have taken 
them both back to his heart, and loved them 
better than ever! But she poisoned my cup 
of life when it seemed to overflow with hea- 
ven. Had God dashed it from my lips, I could 
have borne my doom. But with her own hand 
which I had clasped at the altar — and with our 
Lucy at her knees — she gave me that loath- 
some draught of shame and sorrow ; — I drank 
it to the dregs — and it i§ burning all through 
my being — now — as if it had been hell-fire 
from the hands of a fiend in the shape of an 
angel. In what page of the New Testament 
am I told to forgive her 1 ? Let me see the verse 
— and then shall I know that Christianity is 
an imposture ; for the voice of God within me 
— the conscience which is his still small voice 
— commands me never from my memory to 
obliterate that curse — never to forgive her, 
and her wickedness — not even if we should 
see each other's shadows in a future state, 
after the day of judgment." 

His countenance grew ghastly — and stagger- 
ing to a stone, he sat down and eyed the skies 
with a vacant stare, like a man whom dreams 
carry about in his sleep. His face was like ashes 
— and he gasped like one about to fall into a fit. 
" Bring me water" — and the old man motioned 
on the child, who, giving ear to him for a mo- 
ment, flew away to the Lake-side with an urn 
she had brought with her for flowers ; and 
held it to her father's lips. His eyes saw it 
not ; — there was her sweet pale face all wet 
with tears, almost touching his own — her in- 
nocent mouth breathioig that pure balm that 
seems to a father's soul to be inhaled from the 
bowers of paradise. He took her into his bosom 
— and kissed her dewy eyes — and begged her 
to cease her sobbing — to smile — to laugh — to 
sing — to dance away into the sunshine — to be 
happy! And Lucy afraid, not of her father, 
but of his kindness — for the simple creature 
was not able to understand his wild utterance 
of blessings — returned to the glade but not to 
her pastime, and couching like a fawn among 
the fern, kept her eyes on her father, and left 
her flowers to fade unheeded beside her empty 
urn. 

" Unintelligible mystery of wickedness ! 
That child was just three years old the very 



day it was forsaken — she abandoned it ahd 
me on its birth-day! Twice had that day 
been observed by us — as the sweetest — the 
most sacred of holydays; and now that it had 
again come round — but I not present — for I 
was on foreign service — thus did she observe 
it — and disappeared with her paramour. It 
so happened that we went that day into action 
— and I committed her and our child to the 
mercy of God in fervent prayers; for love 
made me religious — and for their sakes I 
feared though I shunned not death. I lay all 
night among the wounded on the field of battle 
— and it was a severe frost. Pain kept me 
from sleep, but I saw them as distinctly as in 
a dream — the mother lying with her child in 
her bosom in our own bed. Was not that 
vision mockery enough to drive me mad 1 
After a few weeks a letter came to me from 
herself — and I kissed it and pressed it to my 
heart ; for no black seal was there — and I 
knew that little Lucy was alive. No meaning 
for a while seemed to be in the words — and 
then they began to blacken into ghastly cha- 
racters — till at last I gathered from the horrid 
revelation that she was sunk in sin and 
shame, steeped for evermore in utmost pollu- 
tion. 

"A friend was with me — and I gave it to 
him to read — for in my anguish at first I felt 
no shame — and I watched his face as he read 
it, that I might see corroboration of the incre- 
dible truth, which continued to look like false- 
hood, even while it pierced my heart with 
agonizing pangs. 'It may be a forger}',' was 
all he could utter — after long agitation ; but 
the shape of each letter was too familiar to 
my eyes — the way in which the paper was 
folded — and I knew my doom was sealed. 
Hours must have passed, for the room grew 
dark — and I asked him to leave me for the 
night. He kissed my forehead — for we had 
been as brothers. I saw him next morning — 
dead — cut nearly in two — yet had he left a 
paper for me, written an hour before he fell, 
so filled with holiest friendship, that oh! how 
even in my agony I wept for him, now but a 
lump of cold clay and blood, and envied him 
at the same time a soldier's grave ! 

" And has the time indeed come that I can 
thus speak calmly of all that horror! The 
body was brought into my room, and it lay 
all day and all night close to my bed. But 
false was I to all our life-long friendship — 
and almost with indifference I looked upon 
the corpse. Momentary starts of affection 
seized me — but I cared little or nothing for 
the death of him, the tender and the true, the 
gentle and the brave, the pious and the noble- 
hearted; my anguish was all for her, the cruel 
and the faithless, dead to honour, to religion 
dead — dead to all the sanctities of nature — for 
her, and for her alone, I suffered all ghastliest 
agonies — nor any comfort came to me in my 
despair, from the conviction that she was 
worthless ; for desperately wicked as she had 
shown herself to be — oh ! crowding came 
b?ck upon me all our hours of happiness — 
all her sweet smiles — all her loving looks — 
all her affectionate words — all her conjugal 
and maternal tendernesses; and the loss of 



THE FIELD OF FLOWERS. 



53 



all that bliss — the change of it all into strange, 
sudden, shameful, and everlasting misery, 
smote me till I swooned, and was delivered 
up to a trance in which the rueful reality was 
mixed up with fantasms more horrible than 
man's mind can suffer out of the hell of sleep ! 
" Wretched coward that I was to outlive 
that night! But my mind was weak from 
great loss of blood — and the blow so stunned 
me that I had not strength of resolution to 
die. I might have torn off the bandages — 
for nobody watched me — and my wounds were 
thought mortal. But the love of life had not 
welled out with all those vital streams; and 
as I began to recover, another passion took 
possession of me — and I vowed that there 
should be atonement and revenge. I was not 
obscure. My dishonour was known through 
the whole army. Not a tent — not a hut — in 
which my name was not bandied about — a 
jest in the mouths of profligate poltroons — 
pronounced with pity by the compassionate 
brave. I had commanded my men with pride. 
No need had I ever had to be ashamed when 
I looked on our colours; but no wretch led 
out to execution for desertion or cowardice 
ever shrunk from the sun, and from the sight 
of human faces arrayed around him, with 
more shame and horror than did I when, on 
my way to a transport, I came suddenly on 
my own corps, marching to music as if they 
were taking up a position in the line, of battle 
— as they had often done with me at their 
head — all sternly silent before an approaching 
storm of fire. What brought them there? To 
do me honour! Me, smeared with infamy, 
and ashamed to lift my eyes from the mire. 
Honour had been the idol I worshipped — 
alas ! too, too passionately far — and now I lay 
in my litter like a slave sold to stripes — and 
heard as if a legion of demons were mocking 
me and with loud and long huzzas ; and then 
a confused murmur of blessings on our noble 
commander, so they called me — me, despica- 
ble in my own esteem — scorned — insulted — 
forsaken — me, who could not bind to mine the 
bosom that for years had touched it — a wretch 
so poor in power over a woman's heart, that 
no sooner had I left her to "her own thoughts 
than she felt that she had never loved me, 
and, opening her fair breast to a new-born 
bliss, sacrificed me without remorse — nor could 
bear to think of me any more as her husband 
' — not even for sake of that child whom I knew 
she loved — for no hypocrite was she there ; 
and oh ! lost creature though she was — even 
now I wonder over that unaccountable deser- 
tion — and much she must have suffered from 
the image of that small bed, beside which she 
used to sit for hours, perfectly happy from the 
sight of that face which I too so often blessed 
in her hearing, because it was so like her 
own ! Where is my child 1 Have I fright- 
ened her away into the wood by my unfather- 
ly looks 1 She too will come to hate me — 
oh! see yonder her face and her figure like a 
fairy's, gliding through among the broom ! 
Sorrow has no business with her — nor she 
with sorrow. Yet — even her how often have 
I made ween ! All the unhappincss she has 
ever known "has all come from me ; and would 



I but leave her alone to herself in her affec- 
tionate innocence, the smile that always lies 
on her face when she is asleep would remain 
there — only brighter — all the time her eyes 
are awake ; but I dash it away by my unhal- 
lowed harshness, and people looking on her 
in her trouble, wonder to think how sad can 
be the countenance even of a little child. 
God of mercy ! what if she were to die !" 

"She will not die — she will live," said the 
pitying pastor — " and many happy years — my 
son — are yet in store even for you — sorely as 
you have been tried ; for it is not in nature 
that your wretchedness can endure for ever. 
She is in herself all-sufficient for a father's 
happiness. You prayed just now that the God 
of Mercy would spare her life — and has he not 
spared it ? Tender flower as she seems, yet 
how full of Life ! Let not then your gratitude 
to Heaven be barren in your heart ; but let it 
produce there resignation — if need be, contri- 
tion — and, above all, forgiveness." 

"Yes ! I had a hope to live for — mangled as 
I was in body, and racked in mind — a hope 
that was a faith — and bitter-sweet it was in 
unagined foretaste of fruition — the hope and 
the faith of revenge. They said he would not 
aim at my life. But what was that to me who 
thirsted for his blood 1 Was he to escape 
death, because he dared not wound bone, or 
flesh, or muscle of mine, seeing that the as- 
sassin had already stabbed my soul 1 Satis- 
faction ! I tell you that I was for revenge. Not 
that his blood could wipe out the stain with 
which my name was imbrued, but let it be 
mixed with the mould; and he who invaded 
my marriage-bed — and hallowed was it by 
every generous passion that ever breathed 
upon woman's breast — let him fall down in 
convulsions, and vomit out his heart's blood, 
at once in expiation of his guilt, and in retri- 
bution dealt out to him by the hand of him 
whom he had degraded in the eyes of the whole 
world beneath the condition even of a felon, 
and delivered over in my misery to contempt 
and scorn. I found him out ; — there he was 
before me — in all that beauty by women so 
beloved — graceful as Apollo; and with a 
haughty air, as if proud of an achievement 
that adorned his name, he saluted me — her hus- 
band — on the field, — and let the wind play with 
his raven tresses — his curled love-locks — and 
then presented himself to my aim in an attitude 
a statuary would have admired. I shot him 
through the heart." 

The good old man heard the dreadful words 
with a shudder — yet they had come to his ears 
not unexpectedly, for the speaker's aspect had 
gradually been growing black with wrath, long 
before he ended in an avowal of murder. Nor, 
on ceasing his wild words and distracted de- 
meanour, did it seem that his heart was touched 
with any remorse. His eyes retained their 
savage glare — his teeth were clenched — and 
he feasted on his crime. 

" Nothing but a full faith in Divine Revela- 
tion," solemnly said his aged friend, "can sub- 
due the evil passions of our nature, or enable 
conscience itself to see and repent of sin 
Your wrongs were indeed great — but without 
a change wrought in all your spirit, alas ! ray 
e2 



64 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



son ! you cannot hope to see the kingdom of 
heaven." 

" Who dares to condemn the deed ? He de- 
served death — and whence was doom to come 
but from me the Avenger? I took his life — 
but once I saved it. I bore him from the 
battlements of a fort stormed in vain — after 
we had all been blown up by the springing of 
a mine ; and from bayonets that had drunk 
my blood as well as his — and his widowed 
mother blessed me as the saviour of her son. I 
told my wife to receive him as a brother — and 
for my sake to feel towards him a sister's love. 
Who shall speak of temptation — or frailty — or 
infatuation to me? Let the fools hold their 
peace. His wounds became dearer to her 
abandoned heart than mine had ever been ; 
yet had her cheek lain many a night on the 
scars that seamed this breast — for I was not 
backward in battle, and our place was in the 
van. I was no coward, that she who loved 
heroism in him should have dishonoured her 
husband. True, he was younger by some 
years than me — and God had given him per- 
nicious beauty — and she was young, too — oh ! 
the brightest of all mortal creatures the day 
she became my bride — nor less bright with 
that baby at her bosom — a matron in girlhood's 
resplendent spring ! Is youth a plea for wicked- 
ness? And was I old? I, who in spite of all 
I have suffered, feel the vital blood yet boiling 
as to a furnace ; but cut off for ever by her 
crime from fame and glory — and from a soldier 
in his proud career, covered with honour in 
the eyes of all my countrymen, changed in an 
hour into an outlawed and nameless slave. 
My name has been borne by a race of heroes 
— the blood in my veins has flowed down a 
long line of illustrious ancestors — and here 
am I now — a hidden, disguised -hypocrite — 
dwelling among peasants — and afraid — ay, 
afraid, because ashamed, to lift my eyes freely 
from the ground even among the solitudes of 
the mountains, lest some wandering stranger 
should recognise me, and see the brand of 
ignominy her hand and his — accursed both' — 
burnt in upon my brow. She forsook this 
bosom — but tell me if it was in disgust with 
these my scars 1" 

And as he bared it, distractedly, that noble 
chest was seen indeed disfigured with many a 
gash — on which a wife might well have rested 
her head with gratitude not less devout be- 
cause of a lofty pride mingling with life-deep 
affection. But the burst of passion was gone 
by -and, covering his face with his hands, he 
wept like a child. 

"Oh! cruel — cruel was her conduct to me; 
yet what has mine been to her — for so many 
years! I could not tear her image from my 
memory — not an hour has it ceased to haunt 
me; since I came among these mountains, her 
ghost is for ever at my side. I have striven to 
drive it away with curses, but still there is the 
phantom. Sometimes — beautiful as on our 
marriage day — all in purest white — adorned 
with flowers — it wreathes its arms around my 
neck — and offers its mouth to my kisses — and 
then all at once is changed into a leering 
wretch, retaining a likeness of my bride — then 
into a corpse. And perhaps she is dead — 



dead of cold and hunger : she whom I cherished 
in all luxury — whose delicate frame seemed to 
bring round itself all the purest air and sweet- 
est sunshine — she may have expired in the 
very mire — and her body been huddled into 
some hole called a pauper's grave. And I 
have suffered all this to happen her ! Or have 
I suffered her to become one of the miserable 
multitude who support hated and hateful life 
by prostitution? Black was her crime; yet 
hardly did she deserve to be one of that howl- 
ing crew — she whose voice was once so sweet, 
her eyes so pure, and her soul so innocent — 
for up to the hour I parted with her weeping, 
no evil thought had ever been hers; — then 
why, ye eternal Heavens ! why fell she from 
that sphere where she shone like a star? Let 
that mystery that shrouds my mind in darkness 
be lightened — let me see into its heart — and 
know but the meaning of her guilt — and then 
may I be able to forgive it ; but for five years, 
day and night, it has troubled and confounded 
me — and from blind and baffled wrath with an 
iniquity that remains like a pitch-black night 
through which I cannot grope my way, no 
refuge can I find — and nothing is left me but 
to tear my hair out by handfuls — as, like a 
madman, I have done — to curse her by name 
in the solitary glooms, and to call down upon 
her the curse of God. wicked — most wicked ! 
Yet He who judges the hearts of his creatures, 
knows that I have a thousand and a thousand 
times forgiven her, but that a chasm lay be- 
tween us, from which, the moment that I came 
to its brink, a voice drove me back — I know 
not whether of a good or evil spirit — and bade 
me leave her to her fate. But she must be 
dead — and needs not now my tears. friend ! 
judge me not too sternly — from this my con- 
fession; for all my wild words have imper- 
fectly expressed to you but parts of my miser- 
able being — aud if I could lay it all before you, 
you would pity me perhaps, as much as con- 
demn—for my worst passions only have now 
found utterance — all my better feelings will 
not return nor abide for words — even I myself 
have forgotten them ; but your pitying face 
seems to say, that they will be remembered at 
the Throne of Mercy. I forgive her." And 
with these words he fell down on his knees, 
and prayed too for pardon to his own sins. 
The old man encouraged him not to despair — 
it needed but a motion of his hand to bring the 
child from her couch in the cover, and Lucy 
was folded to her father's heart. The forgive- 
ness was felt to be holy in that embrace. 

The day had brightened up into more perfect 
beauty, and showers were sporting with suu- 
shine' on the blue air of Spring. The sky 
showed something like a rainbow — and the 
Lake, in some parts quite still, and in some 
breezy, contained at once shadowy fragments 
of wood and rock, and waves that would have 
murmured round the prow of pleasure-boat 
suddenly hoisting a sail. And such a very 
boat appeared round a promontory that stretch- 
ed no great way into the water, and formed 
with a crescent of low meadow-land a bay that 
was the first to feel the wind coming down 
Glen coin. The boatman was rowing heed- 
lessly along, when a sudden squall struck the 



COTTAGES. 



53 



sail, and in an instant the skiff was upset and 
went down. No shrieks were heard — and the 
boatman swam ashore ; but a figure was seen 
struggling where the sail disappeared — and 
starting from his knees, he who knew not fear 
plunged into the Lake, and after desperate ex- 
ertions brought the drowned creature to the 
side — a female meanly attired — seemingly a 
stranger— and so attenuated that it was plain 
she must have been in a dying state, and had 
she not thus perished, would have had but few 
days to live. The hair was gray — but the face 
though withered was not old — and, as she lay 
on the greensward, the features were beautiful 
as well as calm in the sunshine. 

He stood over her awhile — as if struck mo- 
tionless — and then kneeling beside the body, 
cissed its lips and eyes — and said only, " It is 
Lucy !" 

The old man was close by — and so was that 
child. They too knelt — and the passion of the 
mourner held him dumb, with his face close to 
the face of death — ghastly its glare beside the 
sleep that knows no waking, and is forsaken 
by all dreams. He opened the bosom — wasted 
to the bone — in the idle thought that she might 
yet bre.athe — and a paper dropt out into his 
hand, which he read aloud to himself— uncon- 
scious that any one was near. " I am fast 
dying — and desire to die at your feet. Per- 
haps you will spurn me — it is right you should ; 
but you will see how sorrow has killed the 
wicked wretch who wao once your wife. I 
have lived in humble servitude for five years, | 
and have suffered great hardships. I think I 
am a penitent — and have been told by reli- 
gious persons that I may hope for pardon from 
Heaven. Oh ! that you would forgive me too ! 
and let me have one look at our Lucy. I will 
linger about the Field of Flowers — perhaps 
you will come there, and see me lie down and 
die on the very spot where we passed a" sum- 
mer day the week of our marriage." 



" Not thus could I have kissed thy lips — 
Lucy — had they been red with life. White 
are they — and white must they long have been ! 
No pollution on them — nor on that poor bosom 
now. Contrite tears had long since washed 
out thy sin. A feeble hand traced these lines 
— and in them an humble heart said nothing 
but God's truth. Child — behold your mother. 
Art thou afraid to touch the dead 3" 

"No — father — I am not afraid to kiss her 
lips — as you did now. Sometimes, when you 
thought me asleep, I have heard you praying 
for my mother." 

" Oh ! child ! cease — cease — of my heart 
will burst." 

People began to gather about the body— -but 
awe kept them aloof; and as for removing it 
to a house, none who saw it but knew such 
care would have been vain, for doubt there 
could be none that there lay death. So the 
groups remained for a while at a distance — 
even the old pastor went a good many paces 
apart; and under the shadow of that tree the 
father and child composed her limbs, and 
closed her eyes, and continued to sit beside 
her, as still as if they had been watching over 
one asleep. 

That death was seen by all to be a strange 
calamity to him who had lived long among 
them — had adopted many of their customs — 
and was even as one of themselves — so it 
seemed — in the familiar intercourse of man 
with man. Some dim notion that this was the 
dead body of his wife was entertained by many, 
they knew not why; and their clergyman felt 
that then there needed to be neither conceal- 
ment nor avowal of the truth. So in solemn 
sympathy they approached the body and its 
watchers ; a bier had been prepared : and 
walking at the head, as if it had been a funeral, 
the Father of little Lucy, holding her hand, 
silently directed the procession towards his 
own house — out of the Field of Flowers. 



COTTAGES. 






Have you any intention, dear reader, of build- 
ing a house in the country 1 ? If you have, pray, 
for your own sake and ours, let it not be a 
Cottage. We presume that you are obliged 
to live, one-half of the year at least, in a town. 
Then why change altogether the character of 
} r our domicile and your establishment? You 
are an inhabitant of Edinburgh, and have a 
house in the Circus, or Heriot Row, or Aber- 
cromby Place, or Queen Street. The said 
house has five or six stories, and is such a 
palace as one might expect in the City of Pa- 
laces. Your drawing-rooms can, at a pinch, 
hold some ten score of modern Athenians — 
your dining-room might feast one-half of the 
contributors to Blackwood's Magazine — your 
" placens uxor" has her boudoir — your eldest 
daughter, now verging on womanhood, her 
music-room — your boys their own studio — the 



governess her retreat — and the tutor his den — 
the housekeeper sits like an overgrown spider 
in her own sanctum — the butler bargains for 
his dim apartment — and the four maids must 
have their front-area window. In short, from 
cellarage to garret, all is complete, and Num- 
ber Forty-two is really a splendid mansion. 

Now, dear reader, far be it from us to ques- 
tion the propriety or prudence of such an es- 
tablishment. Your house was not built for 
nothing — it was no easy thing to get the paint- 
ers out — the furnishing thereof was no trifle — 
the. feu-duty is really unreasonable — and taxes 
are taxes still, notwithstanding the principles 
of free trade, and the universal prosperity of 
the country. Servants are wasteful, and their 
wages absurd — and the whole style of living, 
with long-neeked bottles, most extravagant. 
But still we do not object to your establish- 



56 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



ment — far from it, we admire it much ; nor is 
there a single house in town where we make 
ourselves more agreeable to a late hour, or 
that we leave with a greater quantity of wine 
of a good quality under our girdle. Few 
things would give us more temporary uneasi- 
ness, than to hear of any embarrassment in 
3-our money concerns. We are not people to 
forget good fare, we assure you; and long and 
far may all shapes of sorrow keep aloof from 
the hospitable board, whether illuminated by 
gas, oil, or mutton. 

But what we were going to say is this — that 
the head of such a house ought not to live, 
when ruralizing, in a Cottage. He ought to be 
consistent. Nothing so beautiful as consis- 
tency. What then is so absurd as to cram 
yourself, your wife, your numerous progeny, 
and your scarcely less numerous menials, into 
a concern called a Cottage 1 The ordinary 
heat of a baker's oven is very few degrees 
above that of a brown study, during the month 
of July, in a substantial, low-roofed Cottage. 
Then the smell of the kitchen ! How it aggra- 
vates the sultry closeness ! A strange, com- 
pounded, inexplicable smell of animal, vegeta- 
ble, and mineral matter. It is at the worst 
during the latter part of the forenoon, when 
every thing has been got into preparation for 
cookery. There is then nothing savoury about 
the smell — it is dull, dead — almost catacom- 
bish. A small back-kitchen has it in its power 
to destroy the sweetness of any Cottage. Add 
a scullery, and the three are omnipotent. Of 
the eternal clashing of pots, pans, plates, trench- 
ers, and general crockery, we now say no- 
thing ; indeed, the sound somewhat relieves 
the smell, and the ear comes occasionally in 
to the aid of the nose. Such noises are wind- 
falls,; but not so the scolding of cook and but- 
ler — at first low and tetchy, with pauses — then 
sharp, but still interrupted — by and by, loud 
and ready in reply — finally a discordant gab- 
ble of vulgar fury, like maniacs quarrelling in 
bedlam. Hear it you must — you and all the 
strangers. To explain it away is impossible ; 
and your fear is, that Alecto, Tisiphone, or 
Megrera, will come flying into the parlour with 
a bloody cleaver, dripping with the butler's 
brains. During the time of the quarrel the 
spit has been standing still, and a gigot of the 
five-year-old black-face burnt on one side to cin- 
der. — "To dinner wirn what appetite you may." 
It would be quite unpardonable to forget one 
especial smell which irretrievably ruined our 
happiness during a whole summer — the smell 
of a dead rat. The accursed vermin died 
somewhere in the Cottage ; but whether be- 
neath a floor, within lath and plaster, or in 
roof, baffled the conjectures of the most saga- 
cious. The whole family used to walk about 
the Cottage for hours every day, snuffing on a 
travel of discovery; and we distinctly remem- 
ber the face of one elderly maiden-lady at the 
moment she thought she had traced the source 
of the fumee to the wall behind a window- 
shutter. But even at the very same instant 
we ourselves had. proclaimed it with open 
nostril from a press in an opposite corner. 
Terriers were procured — but the dog Billy 
imself would have been at fault. To pull 



down the whole Cottage would have been diffi- 
cult — at least to build it up again would have 
been so; so we had to submit. Custom, they 
say, is second nature, but not when a dead rat 
is in the house. No, none can ever become 
accustomed to that ; yet good springs out of 
evil — for the live rats could not endure it, and 
emigrated to a friend's house, about a mile off, 
who has never had a sound night's rest from 
that day. We have not revisited our Cottage 
for several years ; but time does wonders, and 
we were lately told by a person of some ve- 
racity, that the smell was then nearly gone — 
but our informant is a gentleman of blunted 
olfactory nerves, having been engaged from 
seventeen to seventy in a soap-work. 

Smoke too! More especially that mysteri- 
ous and infernal sort, called back-smoke ! The 
old proverb, "No smoke without fire," is a 
base lie. We have seen smoke without fire 
in every room in a most delightful Cottage we 
inhabited during the dog-days. The moment 
you rushed for refuge even into a closet, you 
were blinded and stifled; nor shall we ever for- 
get our horror on being within an ace of smoth- 
eration in the cellar. At last, we groped our 
way into the kitchen. Neither cook nor jack 
was visible. We heard, indeed, a whirring 
and revolving noise — and then suddenly Grizie 
swearing through the mist. Yet all this while 
people were admiring our cottage from a dis- 
tance, and especially this self-same accursed 
back-smoke, some portions of which had made 
an excursion up the chimneys, and was waver- 
ing away in a spiral form to the sky, in a style 
captivating to Mr. Price on the Picturesque. 

No doubt, there are many things very roman- 
tic about a Cottage. Creepers, for example. 
Why, sir, these creepers are the most mis- 
chievous nuisance that can afflict a family. 
There is no occasion for mentioning names, 
but — devil take all parasites. Some of the 
rogues will actually grow a couple of inches 
upon you in one day's time ; and when all other 
honest plants are asleep, the creepers are hard 
at it all night long, stretching out their toes and 
their fingers, and catching an inextricable hold 
of every wall they can reach, till, finally, you 
see them thrusting their impudentheads through 
the very slates. Then, like other low-bred 
creatures, they are covered with vermin. All 
manner of moths — the most grievous grubs — 
slimy slugs — spiders spinning toils to ensnare 
the caterpillar — earwigs and slaters, that would 
raise the gorge of a country curate — wood- 
lice — the slaver of gowk's-spittle — midges — ■ 
jocks-with-the-many-legs : in short, the whole 
plague of insects infest that — Virgin's bower. 
Open the lattice for half an hour, and you find 
yourself in an entomological museum. Then, 
there are no pins fixing down the specimens. 
All these beetles are alive, more especially the 
enormous blackguard crawling behind your 
ear. A moth plumps into your tumbler of cold 
negus, and goes whirling around in meal, till 
he makes absolute porritch. As you open your 
mouth in amazement, the large blue-bottle fly, 
having made his escape from the spiders, and 
seeing that not a moment is to be lost, precipi- 
tates himself head-foremost down your throat, 
and is felt, after a few ineffectual struggles, 



COTTAGES. 



57 



settling in despair at the very bottom of your 
stomach. Still, no person will be so unreason- 
able as to deny that creepers on a Cottage are 
most beautiful. For the sake of. their beauty, 
some little sacrifices must be made of one's 
comforts, especially as it is only for one-half of 
the year, and last really was a most delightful 
summer. 

How truly romantic is a thatch roof! The 
eaves how commodious for sparrows! What a 
paradise for rats and mice ! What a comfort- 
able colony of vermin ! They all bore their 
own tunnels in every direction, and the whole 
interior becomes a Cretan labyrinth. Frush, 
frush becomes the whole cover in a few sea- 
sons ; and not a bird can open his wing, not a 
rat switch his tail, without scattering the straw 
like chaff. Eternal repairs ! Look when you 
will, and half-a-dozen thatchers are riding on 
the rigging : of all operatives the most inoper- 
ative. Then there is always one of the num- 
ber descending the ladder for a horn of ale. 
Without warning, the straw is all used up; 
and no more fit for the purpose can be got 
within twenty miles. They hint heather — and 
you sigh for slate — the beautiful sky-blue, sea- 
green, Ballahulish slate ! But the summer is 
nearly over and gone, and you must be flitting 
back to the city ; so you let the job stand over 
to spring, and the soaking rains and snows of 
a long winter search the Cottage to its heart's- 
core, and every floor is erelong laden with a 
crop of fungi — the bed-posts are ornamented 
curiously with lichens, and mosses bathe the 
walls with their various and inimitable lustre. 
Every thing is romantic that is pastoral — 
and what more pastoral than sheep 1 Accord- 
ingly, living in a Cottage, you kill your own 
mutton. Great lubberly Leicesters or South- 
Downs are not worth the mastication, so you 
keep the small black-face. Stone walls are 
ugly things, you think, near a Cottage, so you 
have rails or hurdles. Day and night are the 
small black-face, out of pure spite, bouncing 
through or over all impediments, after an ad- 
venturous leader, and, despising the daisied 
turf, keep nibbling away at all your rare flow- 
ering shrubs, till your avenue is a desolation. 
Ever}' twig has its little ball of wool, and it is 
a rare time for the nest-makers. You purchase 
a colley, but he compromises the affair with 
The fleecy nation, and contents himself with 
barking all night long at the moon, if there hap- 
pen to be one, if not, at the firmament of his 
kennel. You are too humane to hang or drown 
Luath, so you give him to a friend. But Luath 
is in love with the cook, and pays her nightly 
visits. Afraid of being entrapped should he 
step into the kennel, he takes up his station, af- 
ter supper, on a knoll within ear-range, and 
pointing his snout to the stars, joins the music 
of the spheres, and is himself a perfect Sirius. 
The gardener at last gets orders to shoot him 
— and the gun being somewhat rusty, bursts 
and blows off his left hand — so that Andrew 
Fairservice retires on a pension. 

Of all breeds of cattle we most admire the 
Alderney. They are slim, delicate, wild-deer- 
looking creatures, that give an air to a Cottage. 
But they are most capricious milkers. Of 
course you make your own butter; that is 
8 



to say, with the addition of a dozen purchased 
pounds weekly, you are not very often out of 
that commodity. Then, once or twice in a 
summer, they suddenly lose their temper, and 
chase the governess and your daughters over 
the edge of a gravel-pit. Nothing they like so 
much as the tender sprouts of cauliflower, nor 
do they abhor green pease. The garden-hedge 
is of privet, a pretty fence, and fast growing, 
but not formidable to a four-year-old. On 
going to eat a few gooseberries by sunrise, 
you start a covey of cows, that in their alarm 
plunge into the hot-bed with a smash, as if all 
the glass in the island had been broken — and 
rushing out at the gate at the critical instant 
little Tommy is tottering in, they leave the 
heir-apparent, scarcely deserving that name, 
half hidden in the border. There is no sale 
for such outlandish animals in the home- 
market, and it is not Martinmas, so you must 
make a present of them to the president or five 
silver-cupman of an agricultural society, and 
you receive in return a sorry red round, des- 
perately saltpetred, at Christmas. 

What is a Cottage in the country, unless 
"your banks are all furnished with bees, 
whose murmurs invite one to sleep V There 
the hives stand, like four-and-twenty fiddlers all 
in a row. Not a more harmless insect in all this 
world than a bee. Wasps are devils incarnate, 
but bees are fleshly sprites, as amiable as 
industrious. You are strolling along, in de- 
lightful mental vacuity, looking at a poem of 
Barry Cornwall's, when smack comes an in- 
furiated honey-maker against your eyelid, and 
plunges into you the fortieth part of an inch 
of sting saturated in venom. The wretch 
clings to your lid like a burr, and it feels as if 
he had a million claws to hold him on while 
he is darting his weapon into your eyeball. 
Your banks are indeed well furnished with 
bees, but their murmurs do not invite you to 
sleep ; on the contrary, away you fly like a 
madman, bolt into your wife's room, and roar 
out for the recipe. The whole of one side v of 
your face is most absurdly swollen, while the 
other is in statu quo. One eye is dwindled 
away to almost nothing, and is peering forth 
from its rainbow-coloured envelope, while the 
other is open as day to melting charity, and 
shining over a cheek of the purest crimson. 
Infatuated man ! Why could you not purchase 
your honey? Jemmy Thomson, the poet, 
would have let you have it, from Habbie's- 
Howe, the true Pentland elixir, for five shil- 
lings the pint ; for during this season both the 
heather and the clover were prolific of the 
honey-dew, and the Skeps rejoiced over all 
Scotland on a thousand hills. 

We could tell many stories about bees, 
but that would be leading us away from the 
main argument. We remember reading in an 
American newspaper, some years ago, that the 
United States lost one of their most upright 
and erudite judges by bees, which stung him 
to death in a wood while he was going the 
circuit. About a year afterwards, we read in 
the same newspaper, " We are afraid we have 
lost another judge by bees ;" and then followed 
a somewhat affrightful description of the as- 
sassination of another American Blackstone 



58 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



by the same insects. We could not fail to 
sympathize with both sufferers; for in the 
summer of the famous comet we ourselves had 
nearly shared the same fate. Our Newfound- 
lander upset a hive in his vagaries — and the 
whole swarm unjustly attacked us. The buzz 
was an absolute roar — and for the first time 
in our lives we were under a cloud. Such 
bizzing in our hair ! and of what avail were 
fifty-times-washed nankeen breeches against 
the Polish Lancers? With our trusty crutch 
we made thousands bite the dust — but the 
wounded and dying crawled up our legs, and 
stung us cruelly over the lower regions. At 
last we took to flight, and found shelter in the 
ice-house. But it seemed as if a new hive had 
been disturbed in that cool grotto. Again we 
sallied out stripping off garment after garment, 
till in puris naturalibus, we leaped into a win- 
dow, which happened to be that of the draw- 
ing-room, where a large party of ladies and 
gentlemen were awaiting the dinner-bell — but 
fancy must dream the rest. 

We now offer a Set of Blackwood's Maga- 
zine to any scientific character who will 
answer this seemingly simple question — what 
is Damp ? Quicksilver is a joke to it, for get- 
ting into or out of any place. Capricious as 
damp is, it is faithful in its affection to all 
Cottages ornees. What more pleasant than a 
bow-window 1 ? You had better, however, not 
sit with your back against the wall, for it is as 
blue and ropy as that of a charnel-house. 
Probably the wall is tastily papered — a vine- 
leaf pattern perhaps — or something spriggy — 
or in the aviary line — or, mayhap, hay-makers, 
or shepherds piping in the dale. But all dis- 
tinctions are levelled in the mould — Phyllis 
has a black patch over her eye, and Strephon 
seems to be playing on a pair of bellows. 
Damp delights to descend chimneys, and is 
one of smoke's most powerful auxiliaries. It 
is a thousand pities you hung up — just in that 
unlucky spot — Grecian Williams's Thebes — 
for now one of the finest water-colour paint- 
ings in the world is not worth six-and-eight- 
pence. There is no living in the country 
without a library. Take down, with all due 
caution, that enormous tome, the Excursion, 
and let us hear something of the Pedlar. There 
is an end to the invention of printing. Lo and 
behold, blank verse indeed! You cannot help 
turning over twenty leaves at once, for they 
are all amalgamated in must and mouldiness. 
Lord Byron himself is no better than an 
Egyptian mummy; and the Great Unknown 
addresses you in hieroglyphics. 

We have heard different opinions maintained 
on the subject of damp sheets. For our own 
part, we always wish to fegl the difference 
between sheets and cerements. We hate 
every thing clammy. It is awkward, on leap- 
ing out of bed to admire the moon, to drag 
along with you, glued round the body and 
members, the whole paraphernalia of the 
couch. It can never be good for rheumatism 
— problematical even for fever. Now, be can- 
did — did you ever sleep in perfectly dry sheets 
in a Cottage ornee ? You would not like to 
say " No, never," in the morning — privately, 
to host or hostess. But confess publicly, and 



trace your approaching retirement from all the 
troubles of this life, to the dimity-curtained 
cubiculum on Tweedside. 

We know of few events so restorative as the 
arrival of a coachful of one's friends, if the 
house be roomy. But if every thing there be 
on a small scale, how tremendous a sudden 
importation of live cattle ! The children are 
all trundled away out of the cottage, and their 
room given up to the young ladies, with all 
its enigmatical and emblematical wall-tracery. 
The captain is billeted in the boudoir, on a 
shake-down. My lady's maid must positively 
pass the night in the butler's pantry, and the 
valet makes a dormitory of the store-room. 
Where the old gentleman and his spouse have 
been disposed of, remains as controversial a 
point as the authorship of Junius ; but next 
morning at the breakfast-table, it appears that 
all have survived the night, and the hospitable 
hostess remarks, with a self-complacent smile, 
that small as the cottage appears, it has won- 
derful accommodation, and could have easily 
admitted half a dozen more patients. The 
visiters politely request to be favoured with a 
plan of so very commodious a cottage, but 
silently swear never again to sleep in a house 
of one story, till life's brief tale be told. 

But not one half the comforts of a cottage 
have yet been enumerated — nor shall they be 
by us at the present juncture. Suffice it to 
add, that the strange coachman had been per- 
suaded to put up his horses in the outhouses, 
instead of taking them to an excellent inn 
about two miles off. The old black long-tailed 
steeds, that had dragged the vehicle for nearly 
twenty years, had been lodged in what was 
called the stable, and the horse behind had 
been introduced into the byre. As bad luck 
would have it, a small, sick, and surly shelty 
was in his stall ; and without the slightest 
provocation, he had, during the night-watches, 
so handled his heels against Mr. Fox, that 
he had not left the senior a leg to stand 
upon, while he had bit a lump out of the but- 
tocks of Mr. Pitt little less than an orange. A 
cow, afraid of her calf, had committed an as- 
sault on the roadster, and tore up his flank with 
her crooked horn as clean as if it had been a 
ripping chisel. The party had to proceed with 
post-horses ; and although Mr. Dick be at once 
one of the most skilful and most moderate 
of veterinary surgeons, his bill at the end of 
autumn was necessarily as long as that of a 
proctor. Mr. Fox gave up the ghost — Mr. Pitt 
was put on the superannuated list — and Jo- 
seph Hume, the hack, was sent to the dogs. 

To this condition, then, we must come at 
last, that if you build at all in the country, it 
must be a mansion three stories high, at the 
lowest — large airy rooms — roof of slates and 
lead — and walls of the freestone or the Roman 
cement. No small black-faces, no Alderneys, 
no beehives. Buy all your vivres, and live 
like a gentleman. Seldom or never be with- 
out a houseful of company. If you manage 
your family matters properly, you may have 
your time nearly as much at your own dis- 
posal as if you were the greatest of hunkses, 
and never gave but unavoidable dinners. Let 
the breakfast-gong sound at ten o'clock — quite 



COTTAGES. 



59 



soon enough. The young people will have 
been romping about the parlours or the pur- 
lieus for «. couple of hours — and will all make 
their appearance in the beauty of high health 
and high spirits. Chat away as long as need 
be, after muffins and mutton-ham, in small 
groups on sofas and settees, and then slip you 
away to your library, to add a chapter to your 
novel, or your history, or to any other task 
that is to make you immortal. Let gigs and 
curricles draw up in the circle, and the wooing 
and betrothed wheel away across a few pa- 
rishes. Let the pedestrians saunter off into 
the woods or to the hillside — the anglers be off 
to loch or river. No great harm even in a 
game or two at billiards — if such be of any the 
cue — sagacious spinsters of a certain age, 
staid dowagers, and bachelors of sedentary 
habits, may have recourse, without blame, to 
the chess or backgammon board. At two lunch 
— and at six the dinner-gong will bring the 
whole flock together, all dressed — mind that — 
all dressed, for slovenliness is an abomination. 
Let no elderly gentleman, however bilious 
and rich, seek to monopolize a young lady — 
but study the nature of things. Champagne 
of course, and if not all the delicacies, at least 
all the substantialities of the season. Join the 
ladies in about two hours — a little elevated or 
so — almost imperceptibly — but still a little 
elevated or so; then music — whispering in 
corners — if moonlight and stars, then an hour's 
out-of-door study of astronomy — no very regu- 
lar supper — but an appearance of plates and 
tumblers, and to bed, to happy dreams and 
slumbers light, at the witching hour. Let no 
gentleman or lady snore, if it can be avoided, 
lest they annoy the crickets ; and if you hear 
any extraordinary noise round and round 
about the mansion, be not alarmed, for why 
should not the owls choose their own hour of 
revelry'? 

Fond as we are of the country, we would 
not, had we our option, live there all the year 
round. We should just wish to linger into the 
winter about as far as the middle of December 
— then to a city — say at once Edinburgh. There 
is as good skating-ground, and as good curling- 
ground, at Lochend and Duddingstone, as any 
where in all Scotland — nor is there anywhere 
else better beef and greens. There is no per- 
fection anywhere, but Edinburgh society is 
excellent. We are certainly agreeable citi- 
zens ; with just a sufficient spice of party 
spirit to season the feast of reason and the 
flow of soul, and to prevent society from be- 
coming drowsily unanimous. Without the 
fillip of a little scandal, honest people would 
fall asleep ; and surely it is far preferable to 
that to abuse one's friends with moderation. 
Even Literature and the Belles Lettres are not 
entirely useless ; and our Human Life would 
not be so delightful as that of Mr. Rogers, 
without a few occasional Noctes Ambro- 
sianee. 

But the title of our article recalls our wan- 
dering thoughts, and our talk must be of Cot- 
tages. Now, think not, beloved reader, that 
we care not for Cottages, for that would indeed 
be a gross mistake. But our very affections 
are philosophical; our sympathies have all 



their source in reason ; and our admiration is 
always built on the foundation of truth. Taste, 
and feeling, and thought, and experience, and 
knowledge of this life's concerns, are all indis- 
pensable to the true delights the imagination 
experiences in beholding a beautiful bond fide 
Cottage. It must be the dwelling of the poor; 
and it is that which gives it its whole character. 
By the poor, we mean not paupers, beggars ; 
but families who, to eat, must work, and who, 
by working, may still be able to eat. Plain, 
coarse, not scanty, but unsuperfluous fare is 
theirs from year's-end to year's-end, excepting 
some decent and grateful change on chance 
holydays of nature's own appointment — a wed- 
ding, or a christening, or a funeral. Yes, a 
funeral; for when this mortal coil is shuffled 
off, why should the hundreds of people that 
come trooping over muirs and mosses to see 
the body deposited, walk so many miles, and 
lose a whole day's work, without a dinner] 
And, if there be a dinner, should it not be a 
good one? And if a good one, will the com- 
pany not be social 1 ? But this is a subject for 
a future paper, nor need such paper be of other 
than a cheerful character. Poverty, then, is 
the builder and beautifier of all huts and cot- 
tages. But the views of honest poverty are 
always hopeful and prospective. Strength of 
muscle and strength of mind form a truly Holy 
Alliance; and the future brightens before the 
steadfast eyes of trust. Therefore, when a 
house is built in the valley, or on the hillside 
— be it that of the poorest cottar — there is some 
little room, or nook, or spare place, which hope 
consecrates to the future. Better times may 
come — a shilling or two may be added to the 
week's wages — parsimony may accumulate a 
small capital in the Savings bank sufficient to 
purchase an old eight-day clock, a chest of 
drawers for the wife, a -curtained bed for the 
lumber-place, which a little labour will convert 
into a bed-room. It is not to be thought that 
the pasture-fields become every year greener, 
and the corn-fields every harvest more yellow 
— that the hedgerows grow to thicker fragrance, 
and the birch-tree waves its tresses higher in 
the air, and expands its white-rinded stem 
almost to the bulk of a tree of the forest — and 
yet that there shall be no visible progress from 
good to better in the dwelling of those whose 
hands and hearts thus cultivate the soil into 
rejoicing beauty. As the whole land prospers, 
so does each individual dwelling. Every ten 
years, the observing eye sees a new expression 
on the face of the silent earth ; the law of la- 
bour is no melancholy lot; for to industry the 
yoke is easy, and content is its own exceeding 
great reward. 

Therefore, it does our heart good to look on 
a Cottage. Here the objections to straw-roofs 
have no application. A few sparrows chirp- 
ing and fluttering in the eaves can do no great 
harm, and they serve to amuse the children. 
The very baby in the cradle, when all the fa 
mily are in the fields, mother and all, hears the 
cheerful twitter, and is reconciled to solitude. 
The quantity of corn that a few sparrows can 
eat — greedy creatures as they are — cannot be 
very deadly; and it is chiefly in the winter 
time that they attack the stacks, when there is 



60 



RECREATIQNS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



much excuse to be made on the plea of hunger. 
As to the destruction of a little thatch, why, 
there is not a boy about the house, above ten 
years, who is not a thatcher, and there is no 
expense in such repairs. Let the honeysuckle 
too steal up the wall, and even blind unchecked 
a corner of the kitchen-window. Its fragrance 
will often cheer unconsciously the labourer's 
heart, as, in the midday-hour of rest, he sits 
dandling his child on his knee, or converses 
with the passing pedlar. Let the moss-rose 
tree nourish, that its bright blush-balls may 
dazzle in the kirk the eyes of the lover of fair 
Helen Irwin, as they rise and fall with every 
movement of a bosom yet happy in its virgin 
innocence. Nature does not spread in vain 
her flowers in flush and fragrance over every 
obscure nook of earth. Simple and pure is 
the delight they inspire. Not to the poet's eye 
alone is their language addressed. The beauti- 
ful symbols are understood by lowliest minds; 
and while the philosophical Words worth speaks 
of the meanest flower that blows giving a joy 
too deep for tears, so do all mankind feel the 
exquisite truth of Burns's more simple address 
to the mountain-daisy which his ploughshare 
had upturned. The one touches sympathies 
too profound to be general— the other speaks 
as a son of the soil affected by the fate of the 
most familiar flower that springs from the 
bosom of our common dust. 

Generally speaking, there has been a spirit 
of improvement at work, during these last 
twenty years, upon all the Cottages in Scot- 
land. The villages are certainly much neater 
and cleaner than formerly, and in very few 
respects, if any, positively offensive. Perhaps 
none of them have — nor ever will have — the 
exquisite trimness, the habitual and hereditary 
rustic elegance, of the best villages of England. 
There, even the idle and worthless have an in- 
stinctive love of what is decent, and orderly, 
and pretty in their habitations. The very- 
drunkard must have a well-sanded floor, a 
clean-swept hearth, clear-polished furniture, 
and uncobwebbed walls to the room in which 
he quaffs, guzzles, and smokes himself into 
stupidity. His wife may be a scold, but seldom 
a slattern— his children ill taught, but well 
apparelled. Much of this is observable even 
among the worst of the class ; and, no doubt, 
such things must also have their effect in 
tempering and restraining excesses. Where- 
as, on the other hand, the house of a well- 
behaved, well-doing English villager is a 
perfect model of comfort and propriety. In 
'Scotland, the houses of the dissolute are always 
dens of dirt, and disorder, and distraction. All 
ordinary goings-on are inextricably confused 
— meals eaten in different nooks, and at no re- 
gular hour — nothing in its right place or time 
— the whole abode as if on the eve of a flitting ; 
while, with few exceptions, even in the dwell- 
ings of the best families in the village, one may- 
detect occasional forgetfulness of trifling mat- 
ters, that, if remembered, would be found 
greatly conducive to comfort — occasional in- 
sensibilities to what would be graceful in their 
condition, and might be secured at little ex- 
pense and less trouble — occasional blindness 
to minute deformities that mar the aspect of the 



household, and which an awakened eye would 
sweep away as absolute nuisances. Perhaps 
the very depth of their affections — the solem- 
nity of their religious thought — and the re- 
flective spirit in which they carry on the 
warfare of life — hide from them the percep- 
tion of what, after all, is of such very inferior 
moment, and even create a sort of austerity 
of character which makes them disregard, too 
much, trifles that appear to have no influence 
or connection with the essence of weal or wo. 
Yet if there be any truth in this, it affords, we 
confess, an explanation rather than a justifi- 
cation. 

Our business at present, however, is rather 
with single Cottages than with villages. We 
Scottish people have, for some years past, been 
doing all we could to make ourselves ridicu- 
lous, by claiming for our capital the name of 
Modern Athens, and talking all manner of 
nonsense about a city which stands nobly on 
its own proper foundation ; while we have 
kept our mouths comparatively shut about the 
beauty of our hills and vales, and the rational 
happiness that everywhere overflows our na- 
tive land. Our character is to be found in the 
country; and therefore, gentle reader, behold 
along with us a specimen of Scottish scenery. 
It is not above some four miles long — its 
breadth somewhere about a third of its length ; 
a fair oblong, sheltered and secluded by a line 
of varied eminences, on some of which lies the 
power of cultivation, and over others the vivid 
verdure peculiar to a pastoral region ; while, 
telling of disturbed times past for ever, stand 
yonder the ruins of an old fortalice or keep, 
picturesque in its deserted decay. The plough 
has stopped at the edge of the profitable and 
beautiful coppice-woods, and encircled the tall 
elm-grove. The rocky pasturage, with its clo- 
very and daisied turf, is alive with sheep and 
cattle — its briery knolls with birds — its broom 
and whins with bees — and its wimpling burn 
with trouts and minnows glancing through the 
shallows, or leaping among the cloud of in- 
sects that glitter over its pools. Here and 
there a cottage — not above twenty in all — one 
low down in the holm, another on a cliff" beside 
the waterfall : that is the mill — another break- 
ing the horizon in its more ambitious station — 
and another far up at the hill-foot, where there 
is not a single tree, only shrubs and brackens. 
On a bleak day, there is but little beauty in 
such a glen; but when the sun is cloudless, 
and all the light serene, it is a place where 
poet or painter may see visions, and dream 
dreams, of the very age of gold. At such sea- 
sons, there is a homefelt feeling of humble re- 
ality, blending with the emotions of imagina- 
tion. In such places, the low-born, high-souled 
poets of old breathed forth their songs, and 
hymns, and elegies — the undying lyrical poetry 
of the heart of Scotland. 

Take the remotest cottage first in order, 
Hilltoot, and hear who are its inmates — the 
Schoolmaster and his spouse. The school- 
house stands on a little unappropriated piece 
of ground — at least it seems to be so — quite at 
the head of the glen ; for there the hills sink 
down on each side, and afford an easy access 
to the seat of learning from two neighbouring 



COTTAGES. 



61 



vales, both in the same parish. Perhaps fifty 
scholars are there taught — and with their small 
fees, and his small salary, Allan Easton is con- 
tented. Allan was originally intended for the 
Church; but some peccadilloes obstructed his 
progress with the Presbytery, and he never 
was a preacher. That disappointment of all 
his hopes was for many years grievously felt, 
and somewhat soured his mind with the world. 
It is often impossible to recover one single 
false step in the slippery road of life — and Al- 
lan Easton, year after year, saw himself falling 
farther and farther into the rear of almost all 
his contemporaries. One became a minister, 
and got a manse, with a stipend of twenty 
chalders ; another grew into an East India 
Nabob ; one married the laird's widow, and 
kept a pack of hounds ; another expanded into 
a colonel; one cleared a plum by a cotton- 
mill; another became the Croesus of a bank — 
while Allan, who had beat them all hollow at 
all the classes, wore second-hand clothes, and 
lived on the same fare with the poorest hind in 
the parish. He had married, rather too late, 
the partner of his frailties — and after many 
trials, and, as he thought, not a few persecu- 
tions, he got settled at last, when his head, not 
very old, was getting gray, and his face some- 
what wrinkled. His wife, during his worst 
poverty, had gone again into service — the lot, 
indeed, to which she had been born ; and Allan 
had struggled and starved upon private teach- 
ing. His appointment to the parish-school 
had, therefore, been to them both a blessed 
elevation. The office was respectable — and 
loftier ambition had long been dead. Now 
they are old people — considerably upwards of 
sixty — and twenty years' professional life have 
converted Allan Easton, once the wild and 
eccentric genius, into a staid, solemn, formal, 
and pedantic pedagogue. All his scholars 
love him, for even in the discharge of such 
very humble duties, talents make themselves 
felt and respected; and the kindness of an 
affectionate and once sorely wounded but now 
healed heart, is never i os t upon the susceptible 
imaginations of the young. Allan has some- 
times sent out no contemptible scholars, as 
scholars go in Scotland, to, the universities ; 
and his heart has warmed within him when he 
has read their names, in the newspaper from 
the manse, in the list of successful competitors 
for .prizes. During vacation-time, Allan and 
his spouse leave their cottage locked up, and 
disappear, none know exactly whither, on 
visits to an old friend or two, who have not 
altogether forgotten them in their obscurity. 
During the rest of the year, his only out-of- 
doors amusement is an afternoon's angling, an 
art in which it is universally allowed he excels 
all mortal men, both in river and loch; and 
often, during the long winter nights, when the 
shepherd is walking by his dwelling, to visit 
his "ain lassie," down the burn, he hears 
Allan's fiddle playing, in the solitary silence, 
some one of those Scottish melodies, that we 
know not whether it be cheerful or plaintive, 
but soothing to every heart that has been at all 
acquainted with grief. Rumour says too, but 
rumour has not a scrupulous conscience, that 
the Schoolmaster, when he meets with plea^nt 



company, either at home or a friend's house, 
is not averse to a hospitable cup, and that then 
the memories of other days crowd upon his 
brain, and loosen his tongue into eloquence. 
Old Susan keeps a sharp warning eye upon 
her husband on all such occasions ; but Allan 
braves its glances, and is forgiven. 

We see only the uncertain glimmer of their 
dwelling through the low-lying mist: and 
therefore we cannot describe it, as if it were 
clearly before our eyes. But should you ever 
chance to angle your way up to Hillfoot, ad- 
mire Allan Easton's flower-garden, and the 
jargonel pear-tree on the southern gable. The 
climate is somewhat high, but it is not cold; 
and, except when the spring-frosts come late 
and sharp, there do all blossoms and fruits 
abound, on every shrub and tree native to 
Scotland. You will hardly know how to dis- 
tinguish — or rather, to speak in clerkly phrase, 
to analyze the sound prevalent over the fields 
and air ; for it is made up of that of the burn, 
of bees, of old Susan's wheel, and the hum of 
the busy school. Bat now it is the play-hour, 
and Allan Easton comes into his kitchen for 
his frugal dinner. Brush up your Latin, and 
out with a few of the largest trouts in your 
pannier. Susan fries them in fresh butter and 
oatmeal — the grayhaired pedagogue asks a 
blessing — and a merrier man, within the limits 
of becoming mirth, you never passed an hour's 
talk withal. So much for Allan Easton and 
Susan his spouse. 

You look as if you wished to ask who in- 
habits the Cottage — -on the left hand yonder — 
that stares upon us with four front windows, 
and pricks up its ears like a new-started hare? 
Why, sir, that was once a Shooting-box. It 
was built about twenty years ago, by a sport- 
ing gentleman of two excellent double-bar- 
relled guns, and three stanch pointers. He 
attempted to live there, several times, from 
the 12th of August till the end of September, 
and went pluffing disconsolately among the 
hills from sunrise to sunset. He has been 
long dead and buried ; and the Box, they say, 
is now haunted. It has been attempted to be 
let furnished, and there is now a board to that 
effect hung out like an escutcheon. Pictur- 
esque people say it ruins the whole beauty of 
the glen ; but we must not think so, for it is 
not in the power of the ugliest house that ever 
was built to do that, although, to effect such a 
purpose, it is unquestionably a skilful contri- 
vance. The window-shutters have been closed 
for several years, and the chimneys look as if 
they had breathed their last. It stands in a 
perpetual eddy, and the ground shelves so all 
around it, that there is barely room for a bar- 
rel to catch the rain-drippings from the slate- 
eaves. If it be indeed haunted, pity the poor 
ghost ! You may have it on a lease, short or 
long, for merely paying the taxes. Every year 
it costs some pounds in advertisement. What 
a jointure-house it would be for a relict ! By 
name, Wixdy-kitowe. 

Nay, let us not fear to sketch the character 
of its last inhabitant, for we desire but to speak 
the truth. Drunkard, stand forward, that we 
may have a look at you, and draw your pic 
ture. There he stands ! The mouth of the 
F 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



drunkard, you may observe, contracts a sin- 
gularly sensitive appearance — seemingly red 
and rawish ; and he is perpetually licking or 
smacking his lips, as if his palate were dry 
and adust. His is a thirst that water will not 
quench. He might as well drink air. His 
whole being burns for a dram. The whole 
world is contracted into a caulker. He would 
sell his soul in such extremity, were the black 
bottle denied him, for a gulp. Not to save his 
soul from eternal fire, would he, or rather 
could he, if left alone with it, refrain from pull- 
ing out the plug, and sucking away at destruc- 
tion. What a snout he turns up to the morning 
air, inflamed, pimpled, snubby, and snorty, and 
with a nob at the end on't like one carved out 
of a stick by the knife of a schoolboy — rough 
and hot to the very eye — a nose which, rather 
than pull, you would submit even to be in 
some degree insulted. A perpetual cough ha- 
rasses and exhausts him, and a perpetual ex- 
pectoration. How his hand trembles! It is 
an effort even to 'sign his name: one of his 
sides is certainly not by any means as sound 
as the other ; there has been a touch of palsy 
there ; and the next hint will draw down his 
chin to his collar-bone, and convert him, a 
month before dissolution, into a slavering 
idiot. There is no occupation, small or great, 
insignificant or important, to which he can 
turn, for any length of time, his hand, his 
heart, or his head. He cannot angle — for his 
fingers refuse to tie a knot, much more to busk 
a fly. The glimmer and the glow of the stream 
would make his brain dizzy — to wet his feet 
now would, he fears, be death. Yet he thinks 
that he will go out — during that sunny blink 
of a showery day — and try the well-known 
pool in which he used to bathe in boyhood, 
with the long, matted, green-trailing water- 
plants depending on the slippery rocks, and 
the water-ousel gliding from beneath the arch 
that hides her "procreant cradle," and then 
sinking like a stone suddenly in the limpid 
stream. He sits down on the bank, and fum- 
bling in his pouch for his pocket-book, brings 
out, instead, a pocket-pistol. Turning his fiery 
face towards the mild, blue, vernal sky, he 
pours the gurgling brandy down his throat — 
first one dose, and then another — till, in an 
hour, stupefied and dazed, he sees not the sil- 
very crimson-spotted trouts, shooting, and 
leaping, and tumbling, and plunging in deep 
and shallow; a day on which, with one of 
Captain Colley's March-Browns, in an hour 
we could fill our pannier. Or, if it be autumn 
or winter, he calls, perhaps, with a voice at 
once gruff and feeble, on old Ponto, and will 
take a plufF at the partridges. In former days, 
down they used to go, right and left, in potatoe 
or turnip-field, broomy brae or stubble — but 
now his sight is dim and wavering, and his 
touch trembles on the trigger. The covey 
whirs off, unharmed in a single feather — and 
poor Ponto, remembering better days, cannot 
conceal his melancholy, falls in at his master's 
heel, and will range no more. Out, as usual, 
comes the brandy-bottle — he is still a good 
shot when his mouth is the mark ; and having 
emptied the fatal flask, he staggers homewards, 
"with the muzzles of his double-barrel fre- 



quently pointed to his ear, both being on full 
cock, and his brains not blown out only by a 
miracle. He tries to read the newspaper — 
just arrived — but cannot find his spectacles. 
Then, by way of variety, he attempts a tune 
on the fiddle; but the bridge is broken, and 
her side cracked, and the bass-string snapped 
— and she is restored to her peg among the 
cobwebs. In pomes a red-headed, stockingless 
lass, with her carrots in papers, and lays the 
cloth for dinner — salt beef and greens. But 
the Major's stomach scunners at the Skye-stot 
— his eyes roll eagerly for the hot-water — and 
in a couple of hours he is dead-drunk* in his 
chair, or stoitering and staggering, in aimless 
dalliance with the scullion, among the pots and 
pans of an ever-disorderly and dirty kitchen. 
Mean people, in shabby sporting velveteen 
dresses, rise up as he enters from the dresser 
covered with cans, jugs, and quechs, and take 
off their rusty and greasy napless hats to the 
Major; and, to conclude the day worthily and 
consistently, he squelches himself down 
among the reprobate crew, takes his turn at 
smutty jest and smuttier song, which drive 
even the jades out of the kitchen — falls back 
insensible, exposed to gross and indecent 
practical jokes from the vilest of the unhanged 
— and finally is carried to bed on a hand-bar- 
row, with hanging head and heels, like a calf 
across a butcher's cart, and, with glazed eyes 
and lolling tongue, is tumbled upon the quilt 
— if ever to awake it is extremely doubtful ; 
but if awake he do, it is to the same wretched 
round of brutal degradation — a career, of 
which the inevitable close is an unfriended 
death-bed and a pauper's grave. O hero ! six 
feet high, and once with a brawn like Hercu- 
les — in the prime of life too — well born and 
well bred — once bearing the king's commis- 
sion — and on that glorious morn, now forgot- 
ten or bitterly remembered, thanked on the 
field of battle by Picton, though he of the fight- 
ing division was a hero of few words — is that 
a death worthy of a man — a soldier — and a 
Christian 1 A dram-drinker ! Faugh ! faugh ! 
Look over — lean over that stile, where a pig 
lies wallowing in mire — and a voice, faint and 
feeble, and far off, as if it came from some 
dim and remote world within your lost soul 
will cry, that of the two beasts, that bristly one, 
agrunt in sensual sleep, with its snout snoring 
across the husk trough, is, as a physical, moral 
and intellectual being, superior to you, late 

Major in his Majesty's regiment of foot, 

now dram-drinker, drunkard, and dotard, and 
self-doomed to a disgraceful and disgusting 
death ere you shall have completed your 
thirtieth year. What a changed being from 
that day when you carried the colours, and 
were found, the bravest of the brave, and the 
most beautiful of the beautiful, with the glori- 
ous tatters wrapped round your body all drench- 
ed in blood, your hand grasping the broken 
sabre, and two grim Frenchmen lying hacked 
and hewed at your feet ! Your father and your 
mother saw your name in the "Great Lord's" 
Despatch ; and it was as much as he could do to 
keep her from falling on the floor, for " her joy 
was like a deep affright !" Both are dead now; 
and better so, for the sight of that blotched 



COTTAGES. 



face and those glazed eyes, now and then 
glittering in fitful frenzy, would have killed 
them both, nor, after such a spectacle, could 
their old bones have rested in the grave. 

Alas, Scotland — ay, well-educated, moral, 
religious Scotland can show, in the bosom of 
her bonny banks and braes, cases worse than 
this ; at which, if there be tears in heaven, the 
angels weep. Look at that grayheaded man, 
of threescore and upwards, sitting by the way- 
side ! He was once an Elder of the Kirk, and 
a pious man he was, if ever piety adorned the 
temples — " the lyart haffets, wearing thin and 
bare," of a Scottish peasant. What eye be- 
held the many hundred steps, that one by one, 
with imperceptible gradation, led him down — 
down — down to the lowest depths of shame, 
suffering, and ruin ? For years before it was 
bruited abroad through the parish that Gabriel 
Mason was addicted to drink, his wife used to 
sit weeping alone in the spence when her sons 
and daughters were out at their work in the 
fields, and the infatuated man, fierce in the 
excitement of raw ardent spirits, kept cause- 
lessly raging and storming through every nook 
of that once so peaceful tenement, which for 
many happy years had never been disturbed 
by the loud voice of anger or reproach. His 
eyes were seldom turned on his unhappy wife 
except with a sullen scowl, or fiery wrath ; 
but when they did look on her with kindness, 
there was also a rueful self-upbraiding in their 
expression, on account of his cruelty; and at 
sight of such transitory tenderness, her heart 
would overflow with forgiving affection, and 
her sunk eyes with unendurable tears. But 
neither domestic sin nor domestic sorrow will 
conceal from the eyes and the ears of men ; 
and at last Gabriel Mason's name was a by- 
word in the mouth of the scoffer. One Sab- 
bath he entered the kirk in a state of miserable 
abandonment, and from that day he was no 
longer an elder. To regain his character 
seemed to him, in his desperation, beyond the 
power of man, and against the decree of God. 
So he delivered himself up, like a slave, to 
that one appetite, and in a few years his whole 
household had gone to destruction. His wife 
was a matron, almost in the prime of life, 
wnen she died ; but as she kept wearing away 
to the other world, her face told that she felt 
her years had been too many in this. Her 
eldest son, unable, in pride and shame, to lift 
up his eyes at kirk or market, went away to 
the city, and enlisted into a regiment about to 
embark on foreign service. His two sisters 
went to take farewell of him, but never re- 
turned ; one, it is said, having died of a fever 
in the Infirmary, just as if she had been a 
pauper ; and the other — for the sight of sin, 
and sorrow, and shame, and suffering, is ruin- 
ous to the soul — gave herself up, in her beauty, 
an easy prey to a destroyer, and doubtless has 
run her course of agonies, and is now at peace. 
The rest of the family dropt down, one by one, 
out of sight, into inferior situations in far-off 
places ; but there was a curse, it. was thought, 
hanging over the family, and of none of them 
did ever a favourable report come to their na- 
tive parish; while he, the infatuated sinner, 
whose vice seemed to have worked all the wo, 



remained in the chains of his tyrannical pas- 
sion, nor seemed ever, for more than the short 
term of a day, to cease hugging them to his 
heart. Semblance of all that is most venera- 
ble in the character of Scotland's peasantry ! 
Image of a perfect patriarch, walking out to 
meditate at eventide ! What a noble fore- 
head ! Features how high, dignified, and com- 
posed ! There, sitting in the shade of that old 
wayside tree, he seems some religious Mis- 
sionary, travelling to and fro over the face of 
the earth, seeking out sin and sorrow, that he 
may tame them under the word of God, and 
change their very being into piety and peace. 
Call him not a hoary hypocrite, for he cannot 
help that noble — that venerable — that aposto- 
lic aspect — that dignified figure, as if bent 
gently by Time, loath to touch it with too 
heavy a hand — that holy sprinkling over his 
furrowed temples of the silver-soft, and the 
snow-white hair — these are the gifts of gra- 
cious Nature all — and Nature will not reclaim 
them, but in the tomb. That is Gabriel Mason 
— the Drunkard ! And in an hour you may, 
if your eyes can bear the sight, see and hear 
him staggering up and down the village, curs- 
ing, swearing, preaching, praying — stoned by 
blackguard boys and girls, who hound all the 
dogs and curs at his heels, till, taking refuge 
in the smithy or the pot-house, he becomes the 
sport of grown clowns, and, after much idiot 
laughter, ruefully mingled with sighs, and 
groans, and tears, he is suffered to mount upon 
a table, and urged, perhaps, by reckless folly 
to give out a text from the Bible, which is 
nearly all engraven on his memory — so much 
and so many other things effaced for ever — 
and there, like a wild Itinerant, he stammers 
forth unintentional blasphemy, till the liquor 
he has been allowed or instigated to swallow, 
smites him suddenly senseless, and, falling 
down, he is huddled off into a corner of some 
lumber-room; and left to sleep — better far for 
such a wretch were it to death. 

Let, us descend, then, from that most incle- 
ment front, into the lown boundaries of the 
Holim. The farm-steading covers a goodly 
portion of the peninsula shaped by the burn, 
that here looks almost like a river. With its 
outhouses it forms three sides of a square, and 
the fourth is composed of a set of jolly stacks, 
that will keep the thrashing-machine at work 
during all the winter. The interior of the 
square rejoices in a glorious dung-hill, (Oh, 
breathe not the name !) that will cover every 
field with luxuriant harvests — twelve bolls of 
oats to the acre. There the cattle — oxen yet 
" lean, and lank, and brown as is the ribbed 
sea-sand," will, in a tsw months, eat them- 
selves up, on straw and turnip, into obesity. 
There turkeys walk demure — there geese wad- 
dle, and there the , feathery-legged king of 
Bantam struts among his seraglio, keeping 
pertly aloof from double-combed Chanticleer, 
that squire of dames, crowing to his partlets. 
There a cloud of pigeons often descends 
among the corny chaff, and then whirs off to 
the - uplands. No chained mastiff looking 
grimly from the kennel's mouth, but a set of 
cheerful and sagaeu-us colleys are seen sit- 
ting on their hurdies, or "worrying hher in 



64 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



diversion." A snaggy colt or two, and a 
brood marc, with a spice of blood, and a foal 
at her heels, know their sheu^ and evidently 
are favourites with the family. Out comes 
the master, a rosy-cheeked carle, upwards of 
six feet high, broad-shouldered, with a blue 
bonnet and velveteen breeches — a man not to 
be jostled on the crown o' the causey, and a 
match for any horse-couper from Bewcastle, 
or gipsy from Yetholm. But let us into the 
kitchen. There's the wife— a bit tidy body— 
and pretty withal — more authoritative in her 
quiet demeanour than the most tyrannical 
mere housekeeper that ever thumped a ser- 
vant lass with the beetle. These three are her 
daughters. First, Girzie, the eldest, seemingly 
older than her mother — for she is somewhat 
hard-favoured, and strong red hair dangling 
over a squint eye, is apt to give an expression 
of advanced years, even to a youthful virgin. 
Vaccination was not known in Girzie's baby- 
hood, but she is, nevertheless, a clean-skinned 
creature, and her full bosom is white as snow. 
She is what is delicately called a strapper, 
rosy-armed as the morning, and not a little of 
an Aurora about the ankles. She makes her 
way, in all household affairs, through every 
impediment, and will obviously prove, when- 
ever the experiment is made, a most excellent 
wife. Mysie, the second daughter, is more 
composed, more genteel, and sits sewing, with 
her a favourite occupation, for she has very 
neat hands; and is, in fact, the milliner and 
mantua-maker for all the house. She could 
no more lift that enormous pan of boiling 
water off the fire than she could fly, which in 
the grasp of Girzie is safely landed on the 
hearth. Mysie has somewhat of a pensive 
look, as if in love — and we have heard that 
she is betrothed to young Mr. Rentoul, the di- 
vinity student, who lately made a speech be- 
fore the Anti-patronage Society, and therefore 
may reasonably expect very soon to get a' 
kirk. But look — there comes dancing in from 
the ewe-bughts the bright-eyed Bessy, the 
flower of the flock, the most beautiful girl in 
Almondale, and fit to be bosom-burd of the 
Gentle Shepherd himself! Oh that we were a 
poet, to sing the innocence of her budding 
breast! But — Heaven preserve us! — what is 
the angelic creature about ? Making rumble- 
de-thumps ! Now she pounds the potatoes 
and cabbages as with pestle and mortar ! 
Ever and anon licking the butter off her fin- 
gers, and then dashing in the salt ! Methinks 
her laugh is out of all bounds loud — and, un- 
less my eyes deceived me, that stout lout 
whispered in her delicate ear some coarse 
jest, that made the eloquent blood mount up 
into her not undelighted countenance. Hea- 
vens and earth ! — perhaps an assignation in 
the barn, or byre, or bush aboon Traquair. 
But the long dresser is set out with dinner — 
the gudeman's bonnet is reverently laid aside 
—and if any stomach assembled there be now 
empty, it is not likely, judging from appear- 
ances, that it will be in that state again before 
next Sabbath — and it is now but the middle 
of the week. Was it not my Lord Byron who 
liked not to see women eat? Poo — poo — non- 
4en.se ! We like to see them not only eat — 



but devour. Not a set of teeth round that 
kitchen-dresser that is not white as the driven 
snow. Breath too, in spite of syboes, sweet 
as dawn-dew — the whole female frame full 
of health, freshness, spirit, and animation ! 
Away all delicate wooers, thricc-high-fantasti- 
cal ! The diet is wholesome — and the sleep 
will be sound ; therefore eat away, Bessy— 
nor fear to laugh, although your pretty mouth 
be full — for we are no poet to madden into 
misanthropy at your mastication ; and, in spite 
of the heartiest meal ever virgin ate, to us 
these lips are roses still, " thy eyes are lode- 
stars, and thy breath sweet air." Would for 
thy sake we had been born a shepherd-groom ! 
No — no — no ! For some few joyous years 
mayest thou wear thy silken snood unharmed, 
and silence with thy songs the linnet among 
the broom, at the sweet hour of prime. And 
then mayest thou plight thy truth — in all the 
warmth of innocence — to some ardent yet 
thoughtful youth, who will carry his bride 
exultingly to his own low-roofed home — toil 
for her and the children at her knees, through 
summer's heat and winter's cold — and sit with 
her in the kirk, when long years have gone 
by, a comely matron, attended by daughters 
acknowledged to be fair—but neither so fair, 
nor so good, nor so pious, as their mother. 

What a contrast to the jocund Holm is the 
Rowan-Tiiee-Hut — so still, and seemingly so 
desolate! It is close upon the public road, 
and yet so low, that you might pass it without 
observing its turf-roof. There live old Aggy 
Robinson, the carrier, and her consumptive 
daughter. Old Aggy has borne that epithet 
for twenty years, and her daughter is not much 
under sixty. That poor creature is bedridden 
and helpless, and has to be fed almost like a 
child. Old Aggy has for many years had the 
same white pony — well named Samson — that 
she drives three times a-week, all the year 
round, to and from the nearest market-town, 
carrying all sorts of articles to nearly twenty 
different families, living miles apart. Every 
other day in the week — for there is but one 
Sabbath either to herself or Samson — she 
drives coals, or peat, or wood, or lime, or 
stones for the roads. She is clothed in a man's 
coat, an old rusty beaver, and a red petticoat. 
Aggy never was a beauty, and now she is al- 
most frightful, with a formidable beard, and a 
rough voice — and violent gestures, encourag- 
ing the overladen enemy of the Philistines. 
But as soon as she enters her hut, she is silent, 
patient, and affectionate, at her daughter's bed- 
side. They sleep on the same chaff-mattress, 
and she hears, during the dead of the night, 
her daughter's slightest moan. Her voice is 
not rough at all when the poor old creature is 
saying her prayers; nor, we may be well as- 
sured, is its lowest whisper unheard in hea- 
ven. 

Your eyes are wandering away to the eastern 
side of the vale, and they have fixed themselves 
on the Cottage of the Sevex Oaks. The grove 
is a noble one ; and, indeed, those are the only 
timber-trees in the valley. There is a tradition 
belonging to the grove, but we shall tell it some 
other time; now, we have to do with that 
mean-looking Cottage, all unworthy of such 



COTTAGES. 



65 



magnificent shelter, 
it has a cold cheerless look — almost a look of 
indigence. The walls are sordid in the streaked 
ochre-wash — a wisp of straw supplies the 
place of a broken pane — the door seems as if 
it were inhospitable — and every object about 
is in untended disorder. The green pool in 
front, with its floating straws and feathers, 
and miry edge, is at once unhealthy and need- 
less ; the hedgerows are full of gaps, and open 
at the roots ; the few garments spread upon 
them seem to have stiffened in the weather, 
forgotten by the persons who placed thein 
there; and half-starved young cattle are stray- 
ing about in what once was a garden. Wretched 
sight it is ; for that dwelling, although never 
beautiful, was once the tidiest and best-kept 
in all the district. But what has misery to do 
with the comfort of its habitation 1 

The owner of that house was once a man 
well to do in the world ; but he minded -this 
world's goods more than it was fitting to do, 
and made Mammon his god. Abilities he 
possessed far beyond the common run of men, 
and he applied them all, with all the energy 
of a strong mind, to the accumulation of wealth. 
Every rule of his life had that for its ultimate 
end ; and he despised a bargain unless he 
outwitted his neighbour. Without any acts 
of downright knavery, he was not an honest 
man — hard to the poor — and a tyrannical 
master. He sought to wring from the very 
soil more than it could produce; his servants, 
among whom were his wife and daughter, he 
kept at work, like slaves, from twilight to 
twilight; and was a forestaller and a regrater 
— a character which, when Political Economy 
was unknown, was of all the most odious in 
the judgment of simple husbandmen. His 
spirits rose with the price of meal, and every 
handful dealt out to the beggar was paid like 
a tax. What could the Bible teach to such a 
man 1 What good could he derive from the 
calm air of the house of worship? He sent 
his only son to the city, with injunctions in- 
stilled into him to make the most of all trans- 
actions, at every hazard but that of his money; 
and the consequence was, in afewyears,shame, 
ruin, and expatriation. His only daughter, im- 
prisoned, dispirited, enthralled," fell a prey to a 
vulgar seducer; and being driven from her 
father's house, abandoned herself, in hopeless 
misery, to a life of prostitution. His wife, 
heartbroken by cruelty and affliction, was 
never afterwards altogether in herright mind, 
and now sits weeping by the hearth,' or wanders 
off to distant places, lone houses and villages, 
almost in the condition of an idiot — wild-eyed, 
loose-haired, and dressed like a very beggar. 
Speculation after speculation failed — with 
farm-yard crowded with old stacks, he had to 
curse three successive plentiful harvests — and 
his mailing was now destitute. The unhappy 
man grew sour, stern, fierce, in his calamity; 
and, when his brain was inflamed with liquor, 
a dangerous madman. He is now a sort of 
cattle-dealer — buys and sells miserable horses 
—and at fairs associates with knaves and re- 
probates, knowing that no honest man will 
deal with him except in pity or derision. He 
has more than once attempted to commit 




suicide ; but palsy has stricken him — and in a 
few weeks he will totter into the grave. 

There is a Cottage in that hollow, and you 
see the smoke — even the chimney-top, but you 
could not see the Cottage itself, unless you 
were within fifty yards of it, so surrounded is 
it with knolls and small green eminences, in a 
den of its own, a shoot or scion from the 
main stem of the valley. It is called Tiik 
Buoom, and there is something singular, and 
not uninteresting, in the history of. its owner. 
He married very early in life, indeed when 
quite a boy, which is not, by the way, very 
unusual among the peasantry of Scotland, 
prudent and calculating as is their general 
character. David Drysdale, before he was 
thirty years of age, had a family of seven 
children, and a pretty family they were as 
might be seen in all the parish. His life was 
in theirs, and his mind never wandered far 
from his fireside. His wife was of a consump- 
tive family, and that insidious and fatal disease 
never showed in her a single symptom during 
ten years of marriage; but one cold evening 
awoke it at her very heart, and in less than 
two months it hurried her into the grave. 
Poor creature, such a spectre! When her 
husband used to carry her, for the sake of a little 
temporary relief, from chair to couch, and 
from her couch back again to her bed, twenty 
times in a day, he hardly could help weeping, 
with all his consideration, to feel her frame as 
light as a bundle of leaves. The medical man 
said, that in all his practice he never had 
known soul and body keep together in such 
utter attenuation. But her soul was as clear 
as ever while racking pain was in her flesh- 
less bones. Even he, her -loving husband, 
was relieved from wo when she expired ; for 
no sadness, no sorrow, could be equal to the 
misery of groans from one so patient and so 
resigned. Perhaps consumption is infectious 
— so, at least, it seemed here ; for first one 
child began to droop, and then another — the 
elder ones first; and, within the two following 
years, there were almost as many funerals 
from this one house as from all the others in 
the parish. Yes — they all died — of the whole, 
family not one was spared. Two, indeed, were 
thought to have pined away in a sort of fear- 
ful foreboding — and a fever took off a third — 
but four certainly died of the same hereditary 
complaint with the mother; and now not a 
voice was heard in the house. He did not 
desert the Broom ; and the farm-work was still 
carried on, nobody could tell how. The ser- 
vants, to be sure, knew their duty, and often 
performed it without orders. Sometimes the 
master put his hand to the plough, but oftener 
he led the life of a shepherd, and was by him- 
self among the hills. He never smiled — and 
at every meal he still sat like a man about to 
be led out to die. But what will not retire 
away — recede — disappear from the vision of 
the souls of us mortals ! Tenacious as we art 
of our griefs, even more than of our joys, both 
elude our grasp. We gaze after them \yith 
longings or self-upbraiding aspirations for their 
return ; but they are shadows, and like shadow? 
vanish. Then human duties, lowly though 
they may be, have their sanative and salutary 
f2 



GG 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



influence on our whole frame of being. Without 
their performance conscience cannot be still ; 
with it, conscience brings peace in extremity 
of evil. Then occupation kills grief, and in- 
dustry abates passion. No balm for sorrow 
like the sweat of the brow poured into the 
furrows of the earth, in* the open air, and 
beneath the sunshine of heaven. These truths 
were felt by the childless widower, long before 
they were understood by him ; and when two 
years had gone drearily, ay dismally, almost 
despairingly, by — he began at times to feel 
something like happiness again when sitting 
among his friends in the kirk, or at their fire- 
sides, or in the labours of the field, or even 
on the market-day, among this world's con- 
cerns. Thus, they who knew him and his 
sufferings, Avere pleased to recognise what 
might be called resignation and its grave 
tranquillity; while strangers discerned in him 
nothing more than a staid and solemn demean- 
our, which might be natural to many a man 
never severely tried, and offering no interrup- 
tion to the cheerfulness that pervaded their 
ordinary life. 

He had a cousin a few years younger than 
himself, who had also married when a girl, and 
when little more than a girl had been left a 
widow. Her parents were both dead, and she 
had lived for a good many years as an upper 
servant, or rather companion and friend, in the 
house of a relation. As cousins, they had all 
their lives been familiar and affectionate, and 
Alice Gray had frequently lived months at a 
time at the Broom, taking care of the children, 
and in all respects one of the family. Their 
conditions were now almost equally desolate, 
and a deep sympathy made them now more 
firmly attached than they ever could have been 
in better days. Still, nothing at all resembling 
love was in either of their hearts, nor did the 
thought of marriage ever pass across their ima- 
gination's. They found, however, increasing 
satisfaction in each other's company; and 
looks and words of sad and sober endearment 
gradually bound them together in affection 
stronger far than either could have believed. 
Their friends saw and spoke of the attach- 
ment, and of its probable result, long before 
they were aware of its full nature ; and no- 
body was surprised, but, on the contrary, all 
were well pleased, when it was understood 
that they were to be man and wife. There was 
something almost mournful in their marriage 
— no rejoicing — no merry-making — but yet 
visible symptoms of gratitude, contentment, 
and peace. An air of cheerfulness was not 
long of investing the melancholy Broom — the 
very swallows twittered more gladly from the 
window-corners, and there was joy in the coo- 
ing of the pigeons on the sunny roof. The 
farm awoke through all its fields, and the farm- 
servants once more sang and whistled at their 
work. The wandering beggar, who remem- 
bered the charity of other years, looked with 
. no cold expression on her who now dealt out 
his dole ; and, as his old eyes were dimmed 
for the sake of those who were gone, gave a 
fervent blessing on the new mistress of the 
house, and prayed that she might long be 
spared The neighbours, even they who had 



best loved the dead, came in with cheerful 
countenances, and acknowledged in theirhearts 
that since change is the law of life, there was 
no one, far or near, whom they could have 
borne to see sitting in that chair but Alice 
Gray. The husband knew their feelings from 
their looks, and his fireside blazed once more 
with a cheerful lustre. 

O gentle reader, young perhaps, and inex- 
perienced of this world, wonder not at this so 
great change ! The heart is full, perhaps, of a 
pure and holy affection, nor can it die, even 
for an hour of sleep. May it never die but in 
the grave ! Yet die it may, and leave thee 
blameless. The time may come when that 
bosom, now thy Elysium, will awaken not, 
with all its heaving beauty, one single pas- 
sionate or adoring sigh. Those eyes, that now 
stream agitation and bliss into thy throbbing 
heart, may, on some not very distant day, be 
cold to thy imagination, as the distant and un- 
heeded stars. That voice, now thrilling through 
every nerve, may fall on thy ear a disregarded 
sound. Other hopes, other fears, other troubles, 
may possess thee wholly — and that more than 
angel of Heaven seem to fade away into a 
shape of earth's most common clay. But here 
there was no change — no forgetfulness — no 
oblivion — no faithlessness to a holy trust. 
The melancholy man often saw his Hannah, 
and all his seven sweet children — now fair in 
life — now pale in death. Sometimes, perhaps, 
the sight, the sound — their smiles and their 
voices — disturbed him, till his heart quaked 
within him, and he wished that he too w r as 
dead. But God it was who had removed them 
from our earth — and was it possible to doubt 
that they were all in blessedness] Shed your 
tears over change from virtue to vice, happi- 
ness to misery; but weep not for those still, 
sad, mysterious processes by which gracious 
Nature alleviates the afflictions of our mortal 
lot, and enables us to endure the life which the 
Lord our God hath given us. Erelong, husband 
and wife could bear to speak of those who 
were now no more seen ; when the phantoms 
rose before them in the silence of the night, 
they all wore pleasant and approving counte- 
nances, and the beautiful family often came 
from Heaven to visit their father in his 
dreams. He did not wish, much less hope, in 
this life, for such happiness as had once been 
his — nor did Alice Gray, even for one hour, 
imagine that such happiness it was in her 
power to bestow. They knew each other's 
hearts — what they had suffered and survived ; 
and, since the meridian of life and joy was 
gone, they were contented with the pensive 
twilight. 

Look, there is a pretty Cottage — by name 
Leaside — one that might almost do for a 
painter — just sufficiently shaded by trees,, and 
showing a new aspect every step you take, and 
each new aspect beautiful. There is, it is 
true, neither moss, nor lichens, nor weather- 
stains on the roof — but all is smooth, neat, trim, . 
deep thatch, from rigging to eaves, with a 
picturesque elevated window covered with the 
same material, and all the walls white as snow. 
The whole building is at all times as fresh as 
if just washed by a vernal shower. Compe- 



COTTAGES. 



67 



tence breathes from every lattice, and that 
porch has been reared more for ornament than 
defence, although, no doubt, it is useful both in 
March and November winds. Every field 
about it is like a garden, and yet the garden is 
brightly conspicuous amidst all the surround- 
ing cultivation. The hedgerows are all clipped, 
for they have grown there for many and many 
a year; and the shears were necessary to keep 
them down from shutting out the vista of the 
lovely vale. That is the dwelling of Adam 
Airlie the Elder. Happy old man ! This life 
has gone uniformly well with him and his ; 
yet, had it been otherwise, there is a power in 
his spirit that would have sustained the sever- 
est inflictions of Providence. His gratitude to 
God is something solemn and awful, and ever 
accompanied with a profound sense of his utter 
unworthiness of all the long-continued mercies 
vouchsafed to his family. His own happiness, 
prolonged to a great age, has not closed within 
his heart one source of pity or affection for his 
brethren of mankind. In his own guiltless 
conscience, guiltless before man, he yet feels 
incessantly the frailties of his nature, and is 
meek, humble, and penitent as the greatest 
sinner. He, his wife, an old faithful female 
servant, and an occasional grand-daughter, 
now form the whole household. His three sons 
have all prospered in the world. The eldest 
went abroad when a mere boy, and many fears 
went with him — a bold, adventurous, and some- 
what reckless creature. But consideration 
came to him in a foreign climate, and tamed 
down his ardent mind to a thoughtful, not a 
selfish prudence. Twenty years he lived in 
India — and what a blessed day was the day of 
his return ! Yet in the prime of life, by dis- 
ease unbroken, and with a heart full to over- 
flowing with all its old sacred affections, he 
came back to his father's lowly cottage, and 
wept as he crossed the threshold. His parents 
needed not any of his wealth ; but they were 
blamelessly proud, nevertheless, of his honest 
acquisitions — proud when he became a land- 
holder in his native parish, and employed the 
sons of his old companions, and some of his 
old companions themselves, in the building of 
his unostentatious mansion, or in cultivating the 
wild but not unlovely moor, which was dear to 
him for the sake of the countless remembrances 
that clothed the bare banks of its lochs, and 
murmured in the little stream that ran among 
the pastoral braes. The new mansion is a 
couple of miles from his parental Cottage; but 
not a week, indeed seldom half that time, 
elapses, without a visit to that dear dwelling. 
They likewise not unfrequently visit him — for 
his wife is dear to them as a daughter of their 
own ; and the ancient couple delight in the 
noise and laughter of his pretty flock. Yet the 
son understands perfectly well that the aged 
people love best their own roof — and that its 
familiar quiet is every day dearer to their 
habituated affections. Therefore he makes no 
parade of filial tenderness — forces nothing new 
upon them— is glad to see the uninterrupted 
tenor of their humble happiness; and if they 
are proud of him, which all the parish knows, 
so is there not a child within its bounds that 
does not know that Mr. Airlie, the rich gentle- 



| man from India, loves his poor father and 
mother as tenderly as if he had never left their 
roof; and is prouder of them, too, than if they 
were clothed in fine raiment, and fared sump- 
tuously every day. Mr. Airlie of the Mount 
has his own seat in the gallery of the Kirk — 
his father, as an Elder, sits below the pulpit— 
but occasionally the pious and proud son joins 
his mother in the pew, where he and his bro- 
thers sat long ago; and every Sabbath one or 
other of his children takes its place beside the 
venerated matron. The old man generally 
leaves the churchward leaning on his Gilbert's 
arm — and although the sight has long been so 
common as to draw no attention, yet no doubt 
there is always an under and unconscious 
pleasure in many a mind witnessing the 
sacredness of the bond of blood. Now and 
then the old matron is prevailed upon, when 
the weather is bad and roads miry, to take a 
seat home in the carriage — but the Elder 
always prefers walking thither with his son, 
and he is stout and hale, although upwards of 
threescore and ten years. 

Walter, the second son, is now a captain in 
the navy, having served for years before the 
mast. His mind is in his profession, and he 
is perpetually complaining of being unem- 
ployed — a ship — a ship, is still the burden of 
his song. But when at home — which he often 
is for weeks together — he attaches himself to 
all the ongoings of rural life, as devotedly as 
if a plougher of the soil instead of the sea. 
His mother wonders, with tears in her eyes, 
why, having a competency, he should still wish 
to provoke the dangers of the deep ; and be- 
seeches him sometimes to become a farmer in 
his native vale. And perhaps more improba- 
ble things have happened; for the captain, it 
is said, has fallen desperately in love with the 
daughter of the clergyman of a neighbouring 
parish, and the doctor will not give his consent 
to the marriage, unless he promise to live, if 
allowed, on shore. The political state of 
Europe certainly seems at present favourable 
to the consummation of the wishes of all 
parties. 

Of David, the third son, who has not heard, 
that has heard any thing of the pulpit eloquence 
of Scotland 1 — Should his life be spared, there 
can be no doubt that he will one day or other 
be Moderator of the General Assembly, per- 
haps Professor of Divinity in a College. Be 
that as it may, a better Christian never ex- 
pounded the truths of the gospel, although 
some folks pretend to say that he is not evan- 
gelical. He is, however, beloved by the poor 
— the orphan and the widow; and his minis- 
trations, powerful in the kirk to a devoutly 
listening congregation, are so too at the sick- 
bed, when only two or three are gathered 
around it, and when the dying man feels how 
a fellow-creature can, by scriptural aids, 
strengthen his trust in the mercy of his Maker. 

Every year, on each birthday of their sons, 
the old people hold a festival — in May, in 
August, and at Christmas. The sailor alone 
looks disconsolate as a bachelor, but that 
reproach will be wiped away before autumn • 
and should God grant the cottagers a few more 
years, some new faces will yet smile upon the 



68 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



holydays ; and there is in their unwilhered 
hearts warm love enough for all that may join 
the party. We too — yes, gentle reader — we 
too shall be there — as we have often been 
during the last ten years — and you yourself 
will judge, from all you know of us, whether 
or no we have a heart to understand and enjoy 
such rare felicity. 

But let us be off to the mountains, and en- 
deavour to interest our beloved reader in a 
Highland Cottage — in any one, taken at hap- 
hazard, from a hundred. You have been 
roaming all day among the mountains, and 
perhaps seen no house except at a dwindling 
distance. Probably you have wished not to 
see any house, but a ruined shieling — a deserted 
hut — or an unroofed and dilapidated shed for 
the outlying cattle of some remote farm. But 
now the sun has inflamed all the western 
heaven, and darkness will soon descend. 
There is now a muteness more stern and 
solemn than during unfaded daylight. List — 
the faint, far-off, subterranean sound of the 
bagpipe ! Some old soldier, probably, playing 
a gathering or a coronach. The narrow dell 
widens and widens into a great glen, in which 
you just discern the blue gleam of a loch. 
The martial music is more distinctly heard — 
loud, fitful, fierce, like the trampling of men in 
battle. Where is the piper? In a cave, or 
within the Fairies' Knowe 1 At the door of a 
hut. His eyes were extinguished by oph- 
thalmia, and there he sits, fronting the sun- 
light, stone-blind. Long silver hair flows down 
his broad shoulders, and you perceive that, 
when he rises, he will rear up a stately bulk. 
The music stops, and you hear the bleating of 
goats. There they come, prancing down the 
rocks, and stare upon the stranger. The old 
soldier turns himself towards the voice of the 
Sassenach, and, with the bold courtesy of the 
camp, bids him enter the hut. One minute's 
view has sufficed to imprint the scene for ever 
on the memory — a hut whose turf-walls and 
roof are incorporated with the living mountain, 
and seem not the work of man's hand, but the 
casual architecture of some convulsion — the 
tumbling down of fragments from the mountain 
side by raging torrents, or a partial earthquake ; 
for all the scenery about is torn to pieces — 
like the scattering of some wide ruin. The 
imagination dreams of the earliest days of our 
race, when men harboured, like the other 
creatures, in places provided by nature. But 
even here, there are visible traces of cultivation 
working in the spirit of a mountainous region 
— a few glades of the purest verdure opened 
out among the tall brackens, with a birch-tree 
or two dropped just where the eye of taste 
could have wished, had the painter planted the 
sapling, instead of the winds of heaven having 
wafted thither the seed — a small croft of 
barley, surrounded by a cairn-.ike wall, made 
up of stones cleared from the soil, and a patch 
of potatoe ground, neat almost as the garden 
that shows in a nook its fruit-bushes and a 
few flowers. All the blasts that ever blew 
must be unavailing against the briery rock that 
shelters the hut from the airt of storms ; and 
the smoke may rise under its lee, unwavering 
on I he windiest day. There is sweetness in 



all the air, and the glen is noiseless, except 
with the uncertain murmur of the now un- 
swollen waterfalls. That is the croak of the 
raven sitting on his cliff halfway up Ben-Oura; 
and hark, the last belling of the red-deer, as 
the herd lies down in the mi*t among the last 
ridge of heather, blending with the shrubless 
stones, rocks, and cliffs that girdle the upper 
regions of the vast mountain. 

Within the dimness of that hut you hear 
greetings in the Gaelic tongue, in a female 
voice ; and when the eye has by and by become 
able to endure the smoke, it discerns -the 
household — the veteran's ancient *dame — a 
young man that may be his son, or rather his 
grandson, but whom you soon know to be 
neither, with black matted locks, the keen eye, 
and the light limbs of the hunter — a young 
woman, his wife, suckling a child, and yet 
with a girlish look, as if but one year before 
her silken snood had been untied — and a lassie 
often years, who had brought home the goats, 
and now sits timidly in a nook eyeing the 
stranger. The low growl of the huge, brindled 
stag-hound had been hushed by a word on your 
first entrance, and the noble animal watches 
his master's eye, which he obeys in his free- 
dom throughout all the forest-chase. A napkin 
is taken out of an old worm-eaten chest, and 
spread over a strangely-carved table, that 
seems to have belonged once to a place of 
pride; and the hungry and thirsty stranger 
scarcelv knows which most to admire, the 
broad bannocks of barley-meal and the huge 
roll of butter, or the giant bottle, whose mouth 
exhales the strong savour of conquering Glen- 
livet. The board is spread — why not fall to 
and eat 1 First be thanks given to the Lord 
God Almighty. The blind man holds up his 
hand and prays in a low chanting voice, and 
then breaks bread for the lips of the stranger. 
On such an occasion is felt the sanctity of the 
meal shared by human beings brought acci- 
dentally together — the salt is sacred — and the 
hearth an altar. 

No great travellers are we, yet have we seen 
something of this habitable globe. The High- 
lands of Scotland is but a small region, nor is 
its interior by any means so remote as the in- 
terior of Africa. Yet 'tis remote. The life of 
that very blind veteran might, in better hands 
than ours, make an interesting history. In his 
youth he had been a shepherd — a herdsman — 
a hunter — something even of a poet. For 
thirty years he had been a soldier — in many 
climates and many conflicts. Since first he 
bloodied his bayonet, how many of his com- 
rades had been buried in heaps ! flung into 
trenches dug on the field of battle ! How 
many famous captains had shone in the blaze 
of their fame — faded into the light of common 
day — died in obscurity, and been utterly for- 
gotten ! ,What fierce passions must have agi- 
tated the frame of that now calm old man ! 
On what dreadful scenes, when forts and towns 
were taken by storm, must those eyes, now 
withered into nothing, have glared with all the 
fur}'' of man's most wrathful soul ! Now peace 
is with him for evermore. Nothing to speak 
of the din of battle, but his own pipes wailing 
or rasing among the hollow of the mountains. 



COTTAGES. 



In relation to his campaigning career, his pre- 
sent life is as the life of another state. The 
pageantry of war has all rolled off and away 
for ever; all its actions but phantoms now of 
a dimly-remembered dream. He thinks of his 
former self, as sergeant in the Black Watch, 
and almost imagines he beholds another man. 
In his long, long blindness, he has created an- 
other world to himself out of new voices — the 
voices of new generations, and of torrents thun- 
dering all year long round about his hut. Almost 
all the savage has been tamed within him, and 
an awful religion falls deeper and deeper upon 
him, as he knows how he is nearing the grave. 
Often his whole mind is dim, for he is exceed- 
ingly old, and then he sees only fragments of 
his youthful life — the last forty years are as if 
they had never been— and he hears shouts and 
huzzas, that' half a century ago rent the air 
with victory. He can still chant, in a hoarse 
broken voice, battle-hymns and dirges; and 
thus, strangely forgetful and strangely tena- 
cious of the past, linked to this life by ties that 
only the mountaineer can know, and yet feel- 
ing himself on the brink of the next, Old Blind 
Donald Roy, the Giant of the Hut of the Three 
Torrents, will not ^cruple to quaff the " strong 
waters," till his mind is awakened — brighten- 
ed — dimmed — darkened — and seemingly ex- 
tinguished — till the sunrise again smites him, 
as he lies in a heap among the heather ; and 
then he lifts up, unashamed and remorseless, 
that head, which, with its long quiet hairs, a 
painter might choose for the image of a saint 
about to become a martyr. 

We leave old Donald asleep, and go with 
his son-in-law, Lewis of the light-foot, and 
Maida the stag-hound, surnamed the Throttler, 

" Where the hunter of deer and the warrior trod, 
To his hills that encircle the sea." 

We have been ascending mountain-range 
after mountain-range, before sunrise; and lo! 
night is gone, and nature rejoices in the day 
through all her solitudes. Still as death, yet as 
life cheerful — and unspeakable grandeur in the 
sudden revelation. Where is the wild-deer 
herd ? — where, ask the keen eyes of Maida, is 
the forest of antlers ! — Lewis of the light-foot 
bounds before, with his long gun pointing to- 
wards the mists now gathered up to the sum- 
mits of Benevis. 

Nightfall — and we are once more at the Hut 
of the Three Torrents. Small Amy is grown 
familiar now, and, almost without being asked, 
sings us the choicest of her Gaelic airs — a few 
too of Lowland melody : all merry, yet all sad 
— if in smiles begun, ending in a shower — or 
at least a tender mist of tears. Heard'st thou 
ever such a syren as this Celtic child? Did 
we not always tell you that fairies were indeed 
realities of the twilight or moonlight world? 
And she is their Queen. Hark ! what thunders 
of applause ! The waterfall at the head of the 
great Corrie thunders .encore with a hundred 
echoes. But the songs are over, and the small 
singtr gone to her heather-bed. There is a 
Highland moon !- The shield of an unfallen 
arch-angel. There are not many stars — but 
those two — ay, that One, is sufficient to sustain 
the glory of the night. Be not alarmed at that 



low, wide, solemn, and melancholy sound. 
Runlets, torrents, rivers, lochs, and seas — 
reeds, heather, forests, caves, and cliffs, all are 
sound, sounding together a choral anthem. 

Gracious heavens ! what mistakes people 
have fallen into when writing about Solitude ! 
A man leaves a town for a few months, and 
goes with his wife and family, and a travelling 
library, into some solitary glen. Friends are 
perpetually visiting him from afar, or the 
neighbouring gentry leaving their cards, while 
his servant-boy rides daily to the post-village 
for his letters and newspapers. And call you 
that solitude ? The whole world is with you, 
morning, noon, and night. But go by your- 
self, without book or friend, and live a month 
in this hut at the head of Glenevis. Go at 
dawn among the cliffs of yonder pine-forest, 
and wait there till night hangs her moon-lamp 
in heaven. Commune with your own soul, 
and be still. Let the images of departed years 
rise, phantom-like, of their own awful accord 
from the darkness of your memory, and pass 
away .into the wood-gloom or the mountain- 
mist. Will conscience dread such spectres? 
Will you quake before them, and bow down 
your head on the mossy root of some old oak, 
and sob in the stern silence of the haunted 
place? Thoughts, feelings, passions, spectral 
deeds, will come rushing around your lair, as 
with the sound of the wings of innumerous 
birds — ay, many of them like birds of prey, to 
gnaw your very heart. How many duties un- 
discharged J How many opportunities neglect- 
ed ! How many pleasures devoured ! How 
many sins hugged ! How many wickednesses 
perpetrated ! The desert looks more grim — > 
the heaven lowers — and the sun, like God's 
own eye, stares in upon your conscience ! 

But such is not the solitude of our beautfiul 
young shepherd-girl of the Hut of the Three 
Torrents. Her soul is as clear, as calm as the 
pool pictured at times by the floating clouds 
that let fall their shadows through among the 
overhanging birch-trees. What harm could 
she ever do ? What harm could she ever think. 
She may have wept — for there is sorrow with- 
out sin ; may have wept even at her prayers — • 
for there is penitence free from guilt, and in- 
nocence itself often kneels in contrition. Down 
the long glen she accompanies the stream to 
the house of God — sings her psalms — and re- 
turns wearied to her heather-bed. She is, in- 
deed, a solitary child; the eagle, and the raven, 
and the red-deer see that she is so — and echo 
knows it when from her airy cliff she repeats 
the happy creature's song. Her world is within 
this one glen. In this one glen she may live 
all her days — be wooed, won, wedded, buried. 
Buried — said we ? Oh, why think of burial 
when gazing on that resplendent head ? Inter- 
minable tracts of the shining day await her, 
the lonely darling of nature ; nor dare Time 
ever eclipse the lustre of those wild-beaming 
eyes ! Her beauty shall be immortal, like that 
of her country's fairies. So, Flower of the 
Wilderness, we wave towards thee a joyful— 
though an everlasting farewell. 

Where are we now? There is not on thjs 
round green earth a lovelier Loch than Achray. 
About a mile above Loch Vennachar and as 



70 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



we approach the Brigg of Turk, we arrive at 
the summit of an eminence, whence we descry 
the sudden and wide prospect of the windings 
of the river that issues from Loch Achray — 
and the Loch itself reposing — sleeping — dream- 
ing on its pastoral, its silvan bed. Achray, 
being interpreted, signifies the "Level Field," 
and gives its name to a delightful farm at the 
west end. On " that happy, rural seat of va- 
rious view," could we lie all day long; and as 
all the beauty tends towards the west, each 
afternoon hour deepens and also brightens it 
into mellower splendour. Not to keep con- 
stantly seeing the lovely Loch is indeed im- 
possible — yet its still wafers soothe the soul, 
without holding it away from the woods and 
cliffs, that forming of themselves a perfect pic- 
ture, are yet all united with the mountainous 
region of the setting sun. Many long years 
have elapsed — at our time of life ten are many 
— "since we passed one delightful evening in 
the hospitable house that stands near the 
wooden bridge over the Teith, just wheeling 
into Loch Achray. What a wilderness of 
wooded rocks, containing a thousand little 
mossy glens, each large enough for a fairy's 
kingdom ! Between and Loch Katrine is the 
Place of Roes — nor need the angler try to pe- 
netrate the nnderwood; for every shallow, 
every linn, every pool is overshaded by its 
own canopy, and the living fly and moth alone 
ever dip their wings in the chequered waters. 
Safe there are all the little singing birds, from 
hawk or glead — and it is indeed an Aviary in the 
wild. Pine-groves stand here and there amid 
the natural woods — and among their tall gloom 
the cushat sits crooning in beloved solitude, 
rarely startled by human footstep, and bearing 
at his own pleasure through the forest the sound 
of his flapping wings. 

But let us arise from the greensward, and be- 
fore we pace along the sweet shores of Loch 
Achray, for its nearest murmur is yet more 
than a mile off, turn away up from the Brigg 
of Turk into Glenfinglas. A strong mountain- 
torrent, in which a painter, even with the soul 
of Salvator Rosa, might find studies inexhaust- 
ible for years, tumbles on the left of a ravine, 
in which a small band of warriors might stop 
the march of a numerous host. With what a 
loud voice it brawls through the silence, fresh- 
ening the hazels, the birches, and the oaks, 
that in that perpetual spray need not the dew's 
refreshment. But the savage scene softens as 
you advance, and you come out of that silvan 
prison into a plain of meadows and corn-fields, 
alive with the peaceful dwellings of indus- 
trious men. Here the bases of the mountains, 
and even their sides high up, are without 
neather — a rich sward, with here and there a 
deep bed of brackens, and a little sheep-shel- 
tering grove. Skeletons of old trees of prodi- 
gious size lie covered with mosses and wild- 
flowers, or stand with their barkless trunks and 
white limbs unmoved when the tempest blows. 
Glenfinglas was anciently a deer-forest of the 
Kings of Scotland; but hunter's horn no more 
awakens the echoes of Benledi. 

A more beautiful vale never inspired pas- 
toral popt in Arcadia, nor did Sicilian shep- 
lirrds of old ever pipe to each other for prize 



of oaten reed, in a lovelier nook than where 
yonder cottage stands, shaded, but scarcely 
sheltered, by a few birch-trees. It is in truth 
not a cottage — but a very Siiielixg, part of 
the knoll adhering to the side of the mountain. 
Not another dwelling — even as small as itself— 
within a mile in any direction. Those goats 
that seem to walk where there is no footing 
along the side of the cliff, go of themselves to 
be milked at evening to a house beyond the 
hill, without any barking dog to set them home. 
There are many footpaths, but all of sheep, ex- 
cept one leading through the coppice-wood to 
the distant kirk. The angler seldom disturbs 
those shallows, and the heron has them to him- 
self, watching often with motionless neck all 
day long. Yet the Shieling is inhabited, and 
has been so by the same person for a good many 
years. You might look at it for hours, and yet 
see no one so much as moving to the door. But 
a little smoke hovers over it — very faint if it 
be smoke at all — and nothing else tells that 
within is life. 

It is inhabited by a widow, who once was 
the happiest of wives, and lived far down the 
glen, where it is richly cultivated, in a house 
astir with many children. It so happened, that 
in the course of nature, without any extraordi- 
nary bereavements, she outlived all the house- 
hold, except one, on whom fell the saddest 
affliction that can befall a human being — the 
utter loss of reason. For some years after the 
death of her husband, and all her other children, 
this son was her support; and there was no 
occasion to pity them in their poverty, where 
all were poor. Her natural cheerfulness never 
forsook her; and although fallen back in the 
world, and obliged in her age to live without 
many comforts she once had known, yet all the 
past gradually was softened into peace, and the 
widow and her son were in that shieling as 
happy as any family in the parish. He worked 
at all kinds of work without, and she sat spin- 
ning from morning to night within — a constant 
occupation, soothing to one before whose mind 
past times might otherwise have come too often, 
and that creates contentment by its undisturbed 
sameness and invisible progression. If not 
always at meals, the widow saw her son for an 
hour or two every night, and throughout the 
whole Sabbath-day. They slept, too, under one 
roof; and she liked the stormy weather when 
the rains were on — for then he found some in- 
genious employment within the shieling, or 
cheered her with some book lent by a friend, 
or with the lively or plaintive music of his 
native hills. Sometimes, in her gratitude, she 
said that she was happier now than when she 
had so many other causes to be so ; and when 
occasionally an acquaintance dropt in upon 
her, her face gave a welcome that spoke more 
than resignation; nor was she averse to par- 
take the socialty of the other huts, and sat 
sedate among youthful merriment, when sum- 
mer or winter festival came round, and poverty 
rejoiced in the riches of content and innocence. 

But her trials, great as they had been, were 
not yet over; for this her only son was laid 
prostrate by fever — and, when it left his body, 
he survived hopelessly stricken in mind. His 
eyes, so clear and intelligent, were now fixed 



COTTAGES. 



71 



in idiocy, or rolled about unobserving of all 
objects living or dead. To him all weather 
seemed the same, and if suffered, he would 
have lain down like a creature void of under- 
standing, in rain or on snow, nor been able to 
find his way back for many paces from the hut. 
As all thought and feeling had left him, so had 
speech, all but a moaning as of pain or wo, 
which none but a mother could bear to hear 
without shuddering — but she heard it during 
night as well as day, and only sometimes lifted 
up her eyes as in prayer to God. An offer was 
made to send him to a place where the afflicted 
were taken care of; but she beseeched charity 
for the first time for such alms as would enable 
her, along with the earnings of her wheel, to 
keep her son in the shieling; and the means 
were given her from many quarters to do so 
decently, and with all the comforts that other 
eyes observed, but of which the poor object him- 
self was insensible and unconscious. Hence- 
forth, it may almost be said, she never more 
saw the sun, nor heard the torrents roar. She 
went not to the kirk, but kept her Sabbath 
where the paralytic lay — and there she sung 
the lonely psalm, and said the lonely prayer, 
unheard in Heaven as many repining spirits 
would have thought — but it was not so ; for in 
two years there came a meaning to his eyes, 
and he found a few words of imperfect speech, 
among which was that of " Mother." Oh ! how 
her heart burned within her, to know that her 
face was at last recognised! To feel that her 
kiss was returned, and to see the first tear that 
trickled from eyes that long had ceased to 
weep ! Day after day, the darkness that co- 
vered his brain grew less and less deep — to 
her that bewilderment gave the blessedness of 
hope; for her son now knew that he had an 
immortal soul, and in the evening joined faintly 
and feebly and erringly in prayer. For weeks 
afterwards he remembered only events and 
scenes long past and distant — and believed 
that his father, and all his brothers and sisters, 
were yet alive. He called upon them by their 
names to come and kiss him — on them, who 
had all long been buried in the dust. But his 
soul struggled itself into reason and remem- 
brance — and he at last said, " Mother ! did some 
accident befall me yesterday at my work down 
the glen 1 — I feel weak, and about to die !" The 
shadows of death were indeed around him ; but 
he lived to be told much of what had hap- 
pened — and rendered up a perfectly unclouded 
spirit into the mercy of his Saviour. His 
mother felt that all her prayers had been 
granted in that one boon — and, when the coffin 
was borne away from the shieling, she re- 
mained in it with a friend, assured that in this 
world there could for her be no more grief. 
And there in that same shieling, now that years 
have gone by, she still lingers, visited as often 
as she wishes by her poor neighbours — for to 
the poor sorrow is a sacred thing — who, by 
turns, send one of their daughters to stay with 
her, and cheer a life that cannot be long, but 
that, end when it may, will be laid down with- 
out one impious misgiving, and in the humility 
of a Christian's faith. 

The scene shifts of itself, and we are at the 
head of Glenetive. Who among all the High- 



land maidens that danced on the greenswards 
among the blooming heather on the mountains 
of Glenetive — who so fair as Flora, the only 
daughter of the King's Forester, and grand- 
child to the Bard famous for his songs of Fai- 
ries in the Hill of Peace, and the Mermaid- 
Queen in her Palace of Emerald floating far 
down beneath the foam-waves of the seal 
And who, among all the Highland youth thai 
went abroad to the bloody wars from the base 
of Benevis v to compare with Ranald of the Red- 
Cliff, whose sires had been soldiers for centu- 
ries, in the days of the dagger and Lochaber 
axe — stately in his strength amid the battle as 
the oak in a storm, but gentle in peace as the 
birch-tree, that whispers with all its leaves to 
the slightest summer-breath ] If their love was 
great when often fed at the light of each other's 
eyes, what was it when Ranald was far off 
among the sands of Egypt, and Flora left an 
orphan to pine away in her native glen 1 Be- 
neath the shadow of the Pyramids he dreamt 
of Dalness and the deer forest, that was the 
dwelling of his love — and she, as she stood by 
the murmurs of that sea-loch, longed for the 
wings of the osprey, that she might flee away 
to the war-tents beyond the ocean, and be at 
rest! 

But years — a few years — long and lingering 
as they might seem to loving hearts separated 
by the roar of seas — yet all too, too short when 
'tis thought how small a number lead from the 
cradle to the grave — brought Ranald and Flora 
once more into each other's arms. Alas ! for 
the poor soldier! for never more was he to 
behold that face from which he kissed the 
trickling tears. Like many another gallant 
youth, he had lost his eyesight from the sharp 
burning sand — and was led to the shieling of 
his love like a wandering mendicant who 
obeys the hand of a child. Nor did his face 
bear that smile of resignation usually so affect- 
ing on the calm countenances of the blind. 
Seldom did he speak — and his sighs wore 
deeper, longer, and more disturbed than those 
which almost any sorrow ever wrings from 
the young. Could it be that he groaned in 
remorse over some secret crime'? 

Happy — completely happy, would Flora have 
been to have tended him like a sister all his 
dark life long, or, like a daughter, to have sat 
beside the bed of one whose hair was getting 
fast gray, long before its time. Almost all her 
relations were dead, and almost all her friends 
away to other glens. But he had returned, 
and blindness, for which there was no hope, 
must bind his steps for ever within little room. 
But they had been betrothed almost from her 
childhood, and would she — if he desired it — 
fear to become his wife now, shrouded as he 
was, now and for ever in the helpless dark! 
From his lips, however, her maidenly modesty 
required that the words should come , nor 
could she sometimes help wondering, in half- 
upbraiding sorrow, that Ranald joyed not in 
his great* affliction to claim her for his wife. 
Poor were they to be sure — yet not so poor as 
to leave life without its comforts; and in every 
glen of her native Highlands, were there nc 
worthy families far poorer than they] Bur 
weeks, months, passed on, and Ranald r* 



72 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER IVUrTTH. 



mained in a neighbouring hut, .shunning the 
sunshine, and moaning, it was s;ii<l, when he 
thought none were near, both night and day. 
Sometimes he had been overheard muttering 
to himself lamentable words — and, blind as Ins 
eyes were to all the objects of the real world, 
it was rumoured up and down the glen, that 
he saw visions of woful events about to befall 
one whom he loved. 

One midnight he found his way, un guided, 
like a man walking in his sleep — but although 
in a hideous trance, he was yet broad awake — 
to the hut where Flora dwelt, and called on 
her, in a dirge-like voice, to speak a few words 
with him ere he died. They sat down together 
among the heather, on the very spot where the 
farewell embrace had been given the morning 
he went away to the wars; and Flora's heart 
died within her, when he told her that the 
Curse under which his forefathers had suffer- 
ed, had fallen upon him; and that he had seen 
his wraith pass by in a shroud, and heard a 
voice whisper the very day he was to die. 

And was it Ranald of the Red-Cliff, the 
bravest of the brave, that thus shuddered in 
.he fear of death like a felon at the tolling of 
,he great prison-bell ? Ay, death is dreadful 
when foreseen by a ghastly superstition. He 
felt the shroud already bound round his limbs 
and body with gentle folds, beyond the power 
of a giant to burst; and day and night the 



same vision yawned before him — an o^en 
grave in the corner of the hill burial-ground 
without any kirk. 

Flora knew that his days were indeed num- 
bered; for when had he ever been afraid of 
death — and could his spirit have quailed thus 
under a mere common dream? Soon was she 
to be all alone in this world; yet when Ranald 
should die, she felt that her own days would 
not be many, and there was sudden and strong 
comfort in the belief that they would be buried 
in one grave. 

Such were her words to the dying man ; and 
all at once he took her in his arms, and asked 
her " If she had no fears of the narrow house ?" 
His whole nature seemed to undergo a change 
under the calm voice of her reply ; and he 
said, "Dost thou fear not then, my Flora, to 
hear the words of doom?" " Blessed will they 
be, if in death we be not disunited." "Thou 
too, my wife — for my wife thou now art on 
earth, and mayest be so in heaven — thou too, 
Flora, wert seen shrouded in that apparition." 
It was a gentle and gracious summer night — 
so clear, that the shepherds on the hills were 
scarcely sensible of the morning's dawn. And 
there, at earliest daylight, were Ranald and 
Flora found, on the greensward, among the tall 
heather, lying side by side, with their calm 
faces up to heaven, and never more to smile 
or weep in this mortal world. 



AN HOUR'S TALK ABOUT POETRY. 



Ouits is a poetical age ; but has it produced 
one Great Poem ? Not one. 

Just look at them for a moment. There is 
the Pleasures of Memory — an elegant, grace- 
ful, beautiful, pensive, and pathetic poem, 
which it does one's eyes good to gaze on — 
one's ears good to listen to — one's very fingers 
good to touch, so smooth is the versification 
and the wdre-wove paper. Never will the 
Pleasures of Memory be forgotten till the 
world is in its dotage. But is it a Great 
Poem ? About as much so as an ant-hill, 
prettily grass-grown and leaf-strewn, is a moun- 
tain purple with heather and golden with woods. 
It is a symmetrical erection — in the shape of 
a cone — and the apex points heavenwards ; 
but 'tis not a sky-piercer. You take it at a 
nop — and pursue your journey. Yet it en- 
dures. For the rains and the dews, and the 
airs, and the sunshine, love the fairy knoll, 
and there it greens and blossoms delicately and 
delightfully ; you hardly know whether a work 
of art or a work of nature. 

Then, there is the poetry of Crabbe. We 
hear it is not very popular. If so, then neither 
is human life. For of all our poets, he has 
most skilfully woven the web and woven the 
woof of all his compositions with the materials 
of human life — homespun indeed ; but though 
often coarse, always strong — and though set 
to plain patterns, yet not unfrequently exceed- 
ing fine is the old weaver's workmanship. Ay 



— hold up the product of his loom between 
your eye and the light, and it glows and glim- 
mers like the peacock's back or the breast of 
the rainbow. Sometimes it seems to be but 
of the "hodden gray;" when sunbeam or 
shadow smites it, and lo ! it is burnished like 
the regal purple. But did the Boroughmonger 
ever produce a Great Poem ? You might as 
well ask if he built St. Paul's. 

Breathes not the man with a more poetical 
temperament than Bowles. No wonder that 
his old eyes are still so lustrous ; for they 
possess the sacred gift of beautifying creation, 
by shedding over it the charm of melancholy. 
" Pleasant but mournful to the soul is the me- 
mory of joys that are past" — is the text we 
should choose were we about to preach on his 
genius. No vain repinings, no idle regrets, 
does his spirit now breathe over the still re- 
ceding Past. But time-sanctified are all the 
shows that arise before his pensive imagina- 
tion ; and the common light of day, once gone, 
in his poetry seems to shine as if it had all 
been dying sunset or moonlight, or the new- 
born dawn. His human sensibilities are so 
fine as to be in themselves poetical; and his 
poetical aspirations so delicate as to be felt 
always human. Hence his Sonnets have been, 
dear to poets — having in them " more than 
meets the ear" — spiritual breathings that hang 
around the words like light around fair flowers ; 
and hence, too, have they been beloved by all 



AN HOUR'S TALK ABOUT POETRY. 



73 



natural hearts who, having not the "faculty 
divine," have yet the " vision" — that is, the 
power of seeing and of hearing the sights and 
the sounds which genius alone can awaken, 
bringing them from afar out of the dust and 
dimness of evanishment. 

Mr. BoAvles has been a poet for good fifty 
years ; and if his genius do not burn quite so 
bright as it did some lustres bygone — yet we 
do not say there is any abatement even of its 
brightness: it shines with a mellower and 
also with a more cheerful light. Long ago, he 
was perhaps rather too pensive — too melan- 
choly — too pathetic — too wo-begone — in too 
great bereavement. Like the nightingale, he 
sung with a thorn at his breast — from which 
one wondered the point had not been broken 
off by perpetual pressure. Yet, though ratheY 
monotonous, his strains were most musical as 
well as melancholy; feeling was often re- 
lieved by fancy ; and one dreamed, in listening 
to his elegies, and hymns, and sonnets, of 
moonlit rivers flowing through hoary woods, 
and of the yellow sands of dim-imaged seas 
murmuring round "the shores of old Ro- 
mance." A fine enthusiasm too was his — in 
those youthful years* — inspired by the poetry 
of Greece and Rome ; and in some of his hap- 
piest inspirations there was a delightful and 
original union — to be found nowhere else that 
we can remember— of the spirit of that an- 
cient song — the pure classical spirit that mur- 
mured by the banks of the Eu rotas and Ilissus 
with that of our own poetry, that like a noble 
Naiad dwells in the " clear well of English un- 
dented." In almost all his strains you felt the 
scholar; but his was no affected or pedantic 
scholarship— intrusive most when least re- 
quired ; but the growth of a consummate clas- 
sical education, of which the career was not 
inglorious among the towers of Oxford. Bowles 
was a pupil of the Wartons — Joe and Tom — 
God bless their souls ! — and his name may be 
joined, not unworthily, with theirs — and with 
Mason's, and Gray's, and Collins's — academics 
all ; the works of them all showing a delicate 
and exquisite colouring of classical art, enrich- 
ing their own English nature. Bowles's muse is 
always loath to forget — wherever she roam or 
linger — Winchester and Oxford — the Itchin 
and the Isis. None educated in those delight- 
ful and divine haunts will ever forget them, 
who can read Homer and Pindar, and Sopho- 
cles, and Theocritus, and Bion, and Moschus, 
in the original; Rhedicyna's ungrateful or 
renegade sons are those alone who pursued 
their poetical studies — in translations. They 
never knew the nature of the true old Greek 
fire. 

But has Bowles written a Great Poem 1 If 
he has, publish it, and we shall make him a 
Bishop. 

What shall we say of the Pleasures of 
Hope 1 That the harp from which that music 
breathed, was an iEolian harp placed in the 
window of a high hall, to catch airs from 
heaven when heaven was glad, as well she 
might be with such moon and such stars, and 
streamering half the region with a magnificent 
aurora borealis. Now the music deepens into 
a majestic march — now it swells into a holy 
10 



hymn — and now it dies away elegiac-like, as 
if mourning over a tomb. Vague, indefinite, 
uncertain, dream-like, and visionary all; but 
never else than beautiful; and ever and anon, 
we know not why, sublime. It ceases in the 
hush of night — and we awaken as if from a 
dream. Is it not even sol — In his youth 
Campbell lived where " distant isles could 
hear the loud Corbrechtan roar;" and some- 
times his poetry is like that whirlpool — the 
sound as of the wheels of many chariots. Yes, 
happy was it for him that he had liberty to 
roam along the many-based, hollow-rumbling 
western coast of that unaccountable county 
Argyleshire. The sea-roar cultivated his natu- 
rally fine musical ear, and it sank too into his 
heart. Hence is his prime Poem bright with 
hope as is the sunny sea when sailor's sweet- 
hearts on the shore are looking out for ships ; 
and from a foreign station down comes the 
fleet before the wind, and the very shells be- 
neath their footsteps seem to sing for joy. As 
for Gertrude of Wyoming, we love her as if 
she were our own only daughter — filling our 
life with bliss, and then leaving it desolate. 
Even now we see her ghost gliding through 
those giant woods ! As for Lochiel's Warn- 
ing, there was heard the voice of the Last of 
the Seers. The' Second Sight is now extin- 
guished in the Highland glooms — the Lament 
wails no more, 

"That man may not hide what God would reveal !" 

The Navy owes much to " Ye mariners of 
England." Sheer hulks often seemed ships 
till that strain arose — but ever since in our 
imagination have they brightened the roaring 
ocean. And dare we say, after that, that Camp- 
bell has never written a Great Poem ] Yes — 
in the face even of the Metropolitan ! 

It was said many long years ago in the 
Edinburgh Review, that none but maudlin 
milliners and sentimental ensigns supposed 
that James Montgomery was a poet. Then is 
Maga a maudlin milliner — and Christopher 
North a sentimental ensign. We once called 
Montgomery a Moravian ; and though he as- 
sures us that we were mistaken, yet having 
made an assertion, we always stick to it, and 
therefore he must remain a Moravian, if not in 
his own belief, yet in ours. Of all religious 
sects, the Moravians are the most simple- 
minded, pure-hearted, and high-souled — and 
these qualities shine serenely in the Pelican 
Island. In earnestness and fervour, that poem 
is by few or none excelled; it is embalmed in 
sincerity, and therefore shall fade not away; 
neither shall it moulder — not even although 
exposed to the air, and blow the air ever so 
rudely through time's mutations. Not that it 
is a mummy. Say rather a fair form laid 
asleep in immortality — its face wearing, day 
and night, summer and winter, look at it when 
you will, a saintly — a celestial smile. That is 
a true image; but is the Pelican Island a Great 
Poem 1 We pause not for a reply. 

Lyrical Poetry, we opine, hath many branches 
—and one of them "beautiful exceedingly" 
with bud, blossom, and fruit of balm and bright- 
ness, round which is ever heard the murmur 
of bees and of birds, hangs trailingly along 
the mossy greensward when the air is calm, 



74 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



and ever and anon, when blow the fitful breezes, 
it is uplifted in the sunshine, and glows wav- 
ingly aloft, as if it belonged even to the loftiest 
region of the Tree Which is Amaranth. That 
is a fanciful, perhaps foolish form of expres- 
sion, employed at present to signify Song-writ- 
ing. Now, of all the song-writers that ever 
warbled, or chanted, or sung, the best, in our 
estimation, is verily none other than Thomas 
Moore. True that Robert Burns has indited 
many songs that slip into the heart, just like 
light, no one knows how, filling its chambers 
sweetly and silently, and leaving it nothing 
more to desire for perfect contentment. Or 
let us say, sometimes when he sings, it is like 
listening to a linnet in the broom, a blackbird 
in the brake, a laverock in the sky. They sing 
in the fulness of their joy, as nature teaches 
them — and so did he ; and the man, woman, or 
child, who is delighted not with such singing, 
be their virtues what they may, must never 
hope to be in Heaven. Gracious Providence 
placed Burns in the midst of the sources of 
Lyrical Poetry — when he was born a Scottish 
peasant. Now, Moore is an Irishman, and 
was born in Dublin. Moore is a Greek scholar, 
and translated — after a fashion — Anacreon. 
And Moore has lived much in towns and cities 
— and in that society whch will suffer none 
else to be called good. Some advantages he 
has enjoyed which Burns never did — but then 
how many disadvantages has he undergone, 
from which the Ayrshire Ploughman, in the 
bondage of his poverty, was free ! You see 
all that at a single glance into their poetry. 
But all in humble life is not high — all in high 
life is not low; and there is as much to guard 
against in hovel as in hall — in " auld clay- 
bigging" as in marble palace. Burns some- 
times wrote like a mere boor — Moore has too 
often written like a mere man of fashion. But 
take them both at their best — and both are ini- 
mitable. Both are national poets — and who 
*;hall say, that if Moore had been born and 
bred a peasant, as Burns was, and if Ireland 
had been such a land of knowledge, and virtue, 
and religion as Scotland is — and surely, with- 
out offence, we may say that it never was, and 
never will be — though we love the Green 
Island well — that with his fine fancy, warm 
heart, and exquisite sensibilities, he might not 
have been as natural a lyrist as Burns; while, 
take him as he is, who can deny that in rich- 
ness, in variety, in grace, and in the power of 
art, he is superior to the ploughman. Of Lal- 
lah Rookh and the Loves of the Angels, we 
defy you to read a page without admiration ; 
but the question recurs, and it is easily an- 
swered, we need not say in the negative, did 
Moore ever write a Great Poem 1 

Let us make a tour of the Lakes. Rydal 
Mount ! Wordsworth ! The Bard ! Here is 
the man who has devoted his whole life to 
poetry. It is his profession. He is a poet 
just as his brother is a clergyman. He is the 
Head of the Lake School, just as his brother 
is Master of Trinity. Nothing in this life and 
in this world has he had to do, beneath sun, 
moor; and stars, but 

"To murmur by the living brooks 
A music sweeter than their own." 



What has been the result? Seven volumes 
(oh ! why not seven more 1) of poetry, as 
beautiful as ever charmed the ears of Pan and 
of Apollo. The earth — the middle air — the sky 
— the heaven — the heart, mind, and soul of 
man — are "the haunt and main region of his 
song." In describing external nature as she is, 
no poet perhaps has excelled Wordsworth — 
not even Thomson; in embuing her and mak- 
ing her pregnant with spiritualities, till the 
mighty mother teems with "beauty far more 
beauteous" than she had ever rejoiced in till 
such communion — he excels all the brother- 
hood. Therein lies his special glory, and 
therein the immortal evidences of the might 
of his creative imagination. All men at times 
"muse on nature with a poet's eye," — but 
Wordsworth ever — and his soul has grown 
more and more religious from such worship. 
Every rock is an altar — every grove a shrine. 
We fear that there will be sectarians even in 
this Natural Religion till the end of time. 
But he is the High Priest of Nature — or, to use 
his own words, or nearly so, he is the High 
Priest "in the metropolitan temple built in the 
heart of mighty poets." But has he — even he 
— ever written a Great Poem 1 If he has — it 
is not the Excursion. Nay, the Excursion is 
not a Poem. It is a Series of Poems, all 
swimming in the light of poetry; some of 
them sweet and simple, some elegant and 
graceful, some beautiful and most lovely, some 
of " strength and state," some majestic, some 
magnificent, some sublime. But though it 
has an opening, it has no beginning; you can 
discover the middle only by the numerals on 
the page ; and the most serious apprehensions 
have been very generally entertained that it 
has no end. While Pedlar, Poet, and Solitary 
breathe the vital air, may the Excursion, stop 
where it will, be renewed ; and as in its pre- 
sent shape it comprehends but a Three Days' 
Walk, we have but to think of an Excursion 
of three weeks, three months, or three years, 
to have some idea of Eternity. Then the life 
of man is not always limited to the term of 
threescore and ten years. What a Journal 
might it prove at last! Poetry in profusion 
till the land overflowed ; but whether in one 
volume, as now, or in fifty, in future, not a 
Great Poem — nay, not a Poem at all — nor ever 
to be so esteemed, till the principles on which 
Great Poets build the lofty rhyme are exploded, 
and the very names of Art and Science smoth- 
ered and lost in the bosom of Nature from 
which they arose. 

Let the dullest clod that ever vegetated, pro- 
vided only he be alive and hear, be shut up in 
a room with Coleridge, or in a wood, and sub 
jected for a few minutes to the ethereal influ- 
ence of that wonderful man's monologue, and 
he will begin to believe himself a Poet. The 
barren wilderness may not blossom like the 
rose, but it will seem, or rather feel to do so, un- 
der the lustre of an imagination exhaustless as 
the sun. You may have seen perhaps rocks 
suddenly so glorified by sunlight with colours 
manifold, that the bees seek them, deluded by 
the show of flowers. The sun, you know, does 
not always show his orb even in the daytime — 
and people are often ignorant of his place in 



AN HOUR'S TALK ABOUT POETRY. 



75 



the firmament. But he keeps shining away at 
his leisure, as you would know were he to suf- 
fer eclipse. Perhaps he — the sun — is at no 
other time a more delightful luminary than 
when he is pleased to dispense his influence 
through a general haze, or mist — softening all 
the day till meridian is almost like the after- 
noon, and the grove, anticipating gloaming, 
bursts into " dance and minstrelsy" ere the god 
go down into the sea. Clouds too become him 
well — whether thin and fleecy and braided, or 
piled up all round about him castle-wise and 
cathedral-fashion, to say nothing of temples and 
other metropolitan structures; nor is it rea- 
sonable to find fault with him, when, as naked 
as the hour he was born, " he flames on the 
forehead of the morning sky." The grandeur 
too of his appearance on setting, has become 
quite proverbial. Now in all this he resem- 
bles Coleridge. It is easy to talk — not very 
difficult to speechify — hard to speak ; but to 
"discourse" is a gift rarely bestowed by Hea- 
ven on mortal man. Coleridge has it in per- 
fection. While he is discoursing, the world 
loses all its commonplaces, and you and your 
wife imagine yourself Adam and Eve listening 
to the affable archangel Raphael in the Gar- 
den of Eden. You would no more dream of 
wishing him to be mute for awhile, than you 
would a river that "imposes silence with a stil- 
ly sound." Whether you understand two con- 
secutive sentences, we shall not stop too curi- 
ously to inquire ; but you do something better, 
you feel the whole just like any other divine 
music. And 'tis your own fault if you do not 
"A wiser and a better man arise to-morrow's morn." 
Reason is said to be one faculty, and Imagina- 
tion another — but there cannot be a grosser 
mistake ; they are one and indivisible ; only in 
most cases they live like cat and dog, in mutual 
worrying, or haply sue for a divorce ; whereas 
in the case of Coleridge they are one spirit as 
well as one flesh, and keep billing and cooing 
in a perpetual honey-moon. Then his mind is 
learned in all the learning of the Egyptians, as 
well as the Greeks and Romans ; and though 
we have heard simpletons say that he knows 
nothing of science, we have heard him on 
chemistry puzzle Sir Humphrey Davy — and 
prove to his own entire satisfaction, that Leib- 
nitz and Newton, though good men, were but 
indifferent astronomers. Besides, he thinks 
nothing of inventing a new science, with a 
complete nomenclature, in a twinkling — and 
should you seem sluggish of apprehension, he 
endows you with an additional sense or two. 
over and above the usual seven, till you are no 
longer at a loss, be it even to scent the music 
of fragrance, or to hear the smell of a balmy 
piece of poetry. All the faculties, both of soul 
and sense, seem amicably to interchange their 
functions and their provinces ; and you fear 
not that the dream may dissolve, persuaded 
that you are in a future state of permanent 
enjoyment. Nor are we now using any exag- 
geration ; for if you will but think how unut- 
terably dull are all the ordinary sayings and 
doings of this life, spent as it is with ordinary 
people, you may imagine how in sweet deliri- 
um you may be robbed of yourself by a se- 
raphic tongue that has fed since first it lisped 



on "honey-dew," and by lips that have "breath- 
ed the air of Paradise," and learned a seraphic 
language, which, all the while that it is Eng- 
lish, is as grand as Greek and as soft as 
Italian. We only know this, that Coleridge is 
the alchymist that in his crucible melts down 
hours to moments — and lo! diamonds sprinkled 
on a plate of gold. 

What a world would this be were all its in- 
habitants to fiddle like Paganini, ride like Du- 
crow, discourse like Coleridge, and do every 
thing else in a style of equal perfection ! But 
pray, how does a man write poetry with a pen 
upon paper, who thus is perpetually pouring 
it from his inspired lips] Read the Ancient 
Mariner, the Nightingale, and Genevieve. In 
the first, you shudder at the superstition of the 
sea — in the second, you thrill with the melo- 
dies of the woods — in the third, earth is like 
heaven ; — for you are made to feel that 

"All thoughts, all passions, all delights, 
Whatever stirs this mortal frame 
All are but ministers of Love, 
And feed his sacred flame !" 

Has Coleridge, then, ever written a Great 
Poem ] No ; for besides the Regions of the 
Fair, the Wild, and the Wonderful, there is 
another up to which his wing might not soar; 
though the plumes are strong as soft. But 
why should he who loveth to take " the wings 
of a dove that he may flee away" to the bo- 
som of beauty, though there never for a mo- 
ment to be at rest — why should he, like an 
eagle, soar into the storms that roll above this 
visible diurnal sphere in peals of perpetual 
thunder 1 

Wordsworth, somewhere or other, remon- 
strates, rather angrily, with the Public, against 
her obstinate ignorance shown in persisting to 
put into one class, himself, Coleridge, and 
Southey, as birds of a feather, that not only 
flock together but warble the same sort of 
song. But he elsewhere tells us that he and 
Coleridge hold the same principles in the Art 
Poetical ; and among his Lyrical Ballads he 
admitted the three finest compositions of his 
illustrious Compeer. The Public, therefore, 
is not to blame in taking him at his word, even 
if she had discerned no family likeness in 
their genius. Southey certainly resembles 
Wordsworth less than Coleridge does ; but he 
lives at Keswick, which is but some dozen 
miles from Rydal, and perhaps with an unphi- 
losophical though pensive Public that link of 
connection should be allowed to be sufficient, 
even were there no other less patent and ma- 
terial than the Macadamized turnpike road. 
But true it is and of verity, that Southey, 
among our living Poets, stands aloof and "alone 
in his glory ;" for he alone of them all has ad- 
ventured to illustrate, in Poems of magnitude, 
the different characters, customs, and manners 
of nations. Joan of Arc is an English and 
French story — Thalaba, Arabian — Kehama, In- 
dian — Madoc, Welsh and American — and Ro 
derick, Spanish and Moorish ; nor would it be 
easy to say (setting aside the first, which was 
a very youthful work) in which of these noble 
Poems Mr. Southey has most successfully per- 
formed an achievement entirely beyond the 
power of any but the highest genius. In Ma- 



76 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



doc, and especially in Roderick, he has relied 
on the truth of nature — as it is seen in the his- 
tory of great national transactions and events. 
In Thalaba and in Kehama, though in them, 
too, he has brought to bear an almost bound- 
less lore, he follows the leading of Fancy and 
Imagination, and walks in a world of wonders. 
Seldom, if ever, has one and the same Poet 
exhibited such power in such different kinds 
of Poetry— in Truth a Master, and in Fiction 
a Magician. 

It is easy to assert that he draws on his vast 
stores of knowledge gathered from books — and 
that we have but to look at the multifarious 
accumulation of notes appended to his great 
Poems to see that the) r are not Inventions. 
The materials of poetry indeed are there — often 
the raw materials — seldom more ; but the Ima- 
gination that moulded them into beautiful, or 
magnificent, or wondrous shapes, is all his 
own — and has shown itself most creative. 
Sou they never was among the Arabians nor 
Hindoos, and therefore had to trust to travel- 
lers. But had he not been a Poet he might 
have read till he was blind, nor ever seen 

"The palm-grove inlanded amid the waste,'' 
where with Oneiza in her Father's Tent 

" How happily the years of Thalaba went by !" 

In what guidance but that of his own genius 
did he descend with the Destroyer into the Dom- 
daniel Caves 1 And who showed him the 
Swerga's Bowers of Bliss? Who built for 
him with all its palaces that submarine City of 
the Dead, safe in its far-down silence from the 
superficial thunder of the sea 1 The greatness 
as well as the originality of Southey's genius 
is seen in the conception of every one of his 
Five Chief Works — with the exception of Joan 
of Arc, which was written in very early youth, 
and is chiefly distinguished by a fine enthu- 
siasm. They are one and all National Poems* 
— wonderfully true to the customs and charac- 
ters of the inhabitants of the countries in which 
are laid the scenes of all their various adven- 
tures and enterprises — and the Poet has en- 
tirely succeeded in investing with an individual 
interest each representative of a race. Thala- 
ba is a true Arab — Madoc a true Briton — King 
Roderick indeed the Last of the Goths. Keha- 
ma is a personage whom we can be made to 
imagine only in Hindostan. Sir Walter con- 
fined himself in his poetry to Scotland — except 
m Rokeby — and his might then went not with 
him across the Border ; though in his novels 
and romances he was at home when abroad — 
and nowhere else more gloriously than with 
Saladin in the Desert. Lalla Rookh is full of 
Drilliant poetry; and one of the series — the 
Fire Worshippers — is Moore's highest effort; 
but the whole is too elaborately Oriental — and 
often in pure weariness of all that accumula- 
tion of the gorgeous imagery of the East, we 
shut up the false glitter, and thank Heaven 
that we are in one of the bleakest and barest 
corners of the West. But Southey's magic is 
aiore potent — and he was privileged to ex- 
claim — 

" Come, listen to a tale of times of old! 
Come, for ye know me. I am he who framed 
Of Thalaba the wild and wondrous song. 



Come listen to my lay, and ye shall hear 

How Madoc from the shores of Britain spread 

The adventurous sail, explored the ocean path, 

And quell'd barbaric power, and overthrew 

The Moody altars of idolatry, 

And planted on its fanes triumphantly 

The Cross of Christ. Come, listen to my lay." 

Of all his chief Poems the conception and the 
execution are original ; in much faulty and im- 
perfect both ; but bearing throughout the im- 
press of original power; and breathing a moral 
charm, in the midst of the wildest and some- 
times even extravagant imaginings, that shall 
preserve them for ever from oblivion, embalm- 
ing them in the spirit of delight and of love. 
Fairy Tales — or tales of witchcraft and en- 
chantment, seldom stir the holiest and deepest 
feelings of the heart; but Thalaba and Keha- 
ma do so; "the still sad music of humanity" 
is ever with us among all most wonderful and 
wild ; and of all the spells, and charms, and ta- 
lismans that are seen working strange effects 
before our eyes, the strongest are ever felt to 
be Piety and Virtue. What exquisite pictures 
of domestic affection and bliss ! what sanctity 
and devotion ! Meek as a child is Innocence 
in Southey's poetry, but mightier than any 
giant. Whether matron or maid, mother or 
daughter — in joy or sorrow — as they appear 
before us, doing or suffering, " beautiful and 
dutiful," with Faith, Hope and Charity their 
guardian angels, nor Fear ever once crossing 
their path ! We feel, in perusing such pic- 
tures — "Purity! thy name is woman !" and are 
not these Great Poems 1 We are silent. But 
should you answer "yes," from us in our pre- 
sent mood you shall receive no contradiction. 
#«The transition always seems to us, we 
scarcely know why, as natural as delightful 
from Sou they to Scott. They alone of all the 
poets of the day have produced poems in which 
are pictured and narrated, epicly, national cha- 
racters, and events, and actions, and catastro- 
phes. Southey has heroically invaded foreign 
countries; Scott as heroically brought his 
power to bear on his own people ; and both 
have achieved immortal triumphs. But Scot- 
land is proud of her great national minstrel — 
and as long as she is Scotland, will wash and 
warm the laurels round his brow, with rains 
and winds that will for ever keep brightening 
their glossy verdure. Whereas England, un- 
grateful ever to her men of genius, already 
often forgets the poetry of Southey; while 
Little Britain abuses his patriotism in his po- 
litics. The truth is, that Scotland had forgotten, 
her own history till Sir Walter burnished it all 
up till it glowed again — it is hard to say whe- 
ther in his poetry or in his prose the brightest — 
and the past became the present. We know 
now the character of our own people as it 
showed itself in war and peace — in palace, 
castle, hall, hut, hovel, and shieling — through 
centuries of advancing civilization, from the 
time when Edinburgh was first ycleped Auld 
Reekie, down to the period when the bright 
idea first occurred to her inhabitants to call 
her the Modern Athens. This he has effected 
by means of about one hundred volumes, each 
exhibiting to the life about fifty characters, and 
each character not only an individual in him- 
self or herself, but the renresentative — so we 



AN HOUR'S TALK ABOUT POETRY. 



77 



offer to prove if you be skeptical — of a distinct 
class or order of human beings, from the Mo- 
narch to the Mendicant, from the Queen to the 
Gipsy, from the Bruce to the Moniplies, from 
Mary Stuart to Jenny Dennisoun. We shall 
never say that Scott is Shakspeare; but we 
shall say that he has conceived and created — 
you know the meaning of these words — as 
many characters — real living flesh-and-blood 
human beings — naturally, truly, and consist- 
ently, as Shakspeare; who, always transcend- 
antly great in pictures of the passions — out of 
their range, which surely does not comprehend 
all rational being — was — nay, do not threaten 
to murder us — not seldom an imperfect delinea- 
tor of human life. All the world believed that 
Sir Walter had not only exhausted his own ge- 
nius in his poetry, but that he had exhausted all 
the matter of Scottish life — he and Burns to- 
gether — and that no more ground unturned-up 
lay on this side of the Tweed. Perhaps he 
thought so too for a while — and shared in the 
general and natural delusion. But one morn- 
ing before breakfast it occurred to him, that in 
all his poetry he had done little or nothing — 
though more for Scotland than any other of 
her poets — except the Ploughman — and that it 
would not be much amiss to commence a New 
Century of Inventions. Hence the Prose Tales 
— Novels — and Romances — fresh floods of light 
pouring all over Scotland — and occasionally 
illuminating England, France, and Germany, 
and even Palestine — whatever land had been 
ennobled by Scottish enterprise, genius, va- 
lour, and virtue. 

Up to the era of Sir Walter, living people had 
some vague, general, indistinct notions about 
dead people mouldering away to nothing cen- 
turies ago, in regular kirkyards and chance 
burial-places, "'mang muirs and mosses many 
O," somewhere or other in that difficultly-dis- 
tinguished and very debatable district called 
the Borders. All at once he touched their 
tombs with a divining rod, and the turf streamed 
out ghosts, some in woodmen's dresses — most 
in warrior's mail: green arches leaped forth 
with yew-bows and quivers — and giants stalked 
shaking spears. The gray chronicler smiled; 
and, taking up his pen, wrote / in lines of light 
the annals of the chivalrous and heroic days of 
auld feudal Scotland. The nation then, for 
the first time, knew the character of its ances- 
tors ; for those were not spectres — not they 
indeed — nor phantoms of the brain — but gaunt 
flesh and blood, or glad and glorious; — base- 
born cottage churls of the olden time, because 
Scottish, became familiar to the love of the 
nation's heart, and so to its pride did the high- 
born lineage of palace-kings. The worst of 
Sir Walter is, that he has harried all Scotland. 
Never was there such a freebooter. He hurries 
all men's cattle — kills themselves offhand, and 
makes bonfires of their castles. Thus has he 
disturbed and illuminated all the land as with 
the blazes of a million beacons. Lakes lie 
with their islands distinct by midnight as by 
mid-day; wide woods glow gloriously in the 
gloom ; and by the stormy splendour you even 
see ships, with all sails set, far at sea. His 
favourite themes in prose or numerous verse, 
are still " Knights and Lords and mighty Earls," 



and their Lady-loves, chiefly Scottish — of kings 
that fought for fame or freedom — of fatal Flod 
den and bright Bannockburn — of the de- 
liverer. If that be not national to the teeth, 
Homer was no Ionian, Tyrtaeu's not sprung 
from Sparta, and Christopher North a Cockney. 
Let Abbotsford, then, be cognomed by those 
that choose it, the Ariosto of the North — we 
shall continue to call him plain Sir Walter. 

Now, we beg leave to decline answering our 
own question — has he ever written a Great 
Poem? We do not care one straw whether he 
has or not; for he has done this — he has ex- 
hibited human life in a greater variety of forms 
and lights, all definite and distinct, than any 
other man whose name has reached our ears; 
and therefore, without fear or trembling, we 
tell the world to its face, that he is, out of all 
sight, the greatest genius of the age, not for- 
getting Goethe, the Devil, and Dr. Faustus. 

"What ! Scott a greater genius than Byron !" 
Yes — beyond compare. Byron had a vivid and 
strong, but not a wide, imagination. He saw 
things as they are, occasionally standing pro- 
minently and boldly out from the flat surface 
of this world ; and in general, when his soul 
was up, he described them with a master's 
might. We speak now of the external world — 
of nature and of art. Now observe how he 
dealt with nature. In his early poems he be- 
trayed no passionate love of nature, though we 
do not doubt that he felt it; and even in the 
first two cantos of Childe Harold he was an 
unfrequent and no very devout worshipper at 
her shrine. We are not blaming his lukewarm- 
ness; but simply stating a fact. He had some- 
thing else to think of, it would appear; and 
proved himself a poet. But in the third canto, 
"a change came over the spirit of his dream," 
and he "babbled o' green fields," floods, and 
mountains. Unfortunately, however, for his 
originality, that canto is almost a cento — his 
model being Wordsworth. His merit, what- 
ever it may be, is limited therefore to that of 
imitation. And observe, the imitation is not 
merely occasional or verbal; but all the de- 
scriptions are conceived in the spirit of Words- 
worth, coloured by it and shaped — from it they 
live, and breathe, and have their being; and 
that so entirely, that had the Excursion and 
Lyrical Ballads never been, neither had any 
composition at all resembling, either in con- 
ception or execution, the third canto of Childe 
Harold. His soul, however, having been 
awakened by the inspiration of the Bard of 
Nature, never afterwards fell asleep, nor got 
drowsy over her beauties or glories ; and much 
fine description pervades most of his subse- 
quent works. He afterwards made much of 
what he- saw his own — and even described it 
after his own fashion ; but a greater in that 
domain was his instructor and guide — nor in 
his noblest efforts did he ever make any close- 
approach to those inspired passages, which he 
had manifestly set as models before his imagi- 
nation. With all the fair and great objects in 
the world of art, again, Byron dealt like a poet 
of original genius. They themselves, and not 
descriptions of them, kindled it up; and thus 
"thoughts that breathe, and words that burn," 
do almost entirely compose the fourth cantc 
g 2 



78 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



which is worth, ten times over, all the rest. 
The impetuosity of his career is astonishing; 
never for a moment does his wing flag; ever 
and anon he stoops but to soar again with a 
more majestic sweep; and you see how he glo- 
ries in his flight — that he is proud as Lucifer. 
The first two cantos are frequently cold, cum- 
brous, stiff*, heavy, and dull ; and, with the ex- 
ception of perhaps a dozen stanzas, and these 
far from being of first-rate excellence, they are 
found wofully wanting in the true fire. Many 
passages are but the baldest prose. Byron, 
after all, was right in thinking — at first — but 
poorly of these cantos ; and so was the friend, 
not Mr. Hobhouse, who threw cold water upon 
them in manuscript. True, they " made a pro- 
digious sensation," but bitter-bad stuff has often 
done that; while often unheeded or unheard 
has been an angel's voice. Had they been suf- 
fered to stand alone, long ere now had they 
been pretty well forgotten ; and had they been 
followed by other two cantos no better than 
themselves, then had the whole four in good 
time been most certainly damned. But, fortu- 
nately, the poet, in his pride, felt himself 
pledged to proceed; and proceed he did in a 
superior style; borrowing, stealing, and rob- 
bing, with a face of aristocratic assurance that 
must have amazed the plundered; but inter- 
mingling with the spoil riches fairly won by 
his own genius from the exhaustless treasury 
of nature, who loved her wayward, her wicked, 
and her wondrous son. Is Childe Harold, then, 
a Great Poem 1 What! with one half of it 
little above mediocrity, one quarter of it not 
original in conception, and in execution swarm- 
ing with faults, and the remainder glorious? 
As for his tales — the Giaour, Corsair, Lara, 
Bride of Abydos, Siege of Corinth, and so forth — 
they are all spirited, energetic, and passionate 
performances — sometimes nobly and some- 
times meanly versified — but displaying neither 
originality nor fertility of invention, and assu- 
redly no wide range either of feeling or of 
thought, though over that range a supreme 
dominion. Some of his dramas are magnifi- 
cent — and in many of his smaller poems, 
pathos and beauty overflow. Don Juan exhi- 
bits almost every kind of talent; and in it the 
degradation of poetry is perfect. '/ 

But there is another glory belonging to this 
age, and almost to this age alone of our poetry 
— the glory of Female Genius. We have heard 
and seen it seriously argued whether or not 
women are equal to men ; as if there could be 
a moment's doubt in any mind unbesotted by 
sex, that they are infinitely superior; not in 
understanding, thank Heaven, nor in intellect, 
Dut in all other "impulses of soul and sense" 
that dignify and adorn human beings, and 
make them worthy of living on this delightful 
earth. Men for the most part are such worth- 
less wretches, that we wonder how women 
condescended to allow the world to be carried 
od ; and we attribute that phenomenon solely 
to the hallowed yearnings of maternal affec- 
tion, which breathes as strongly in maid as in 
matron, and may be beautifully seen in the 
child fondling its doll in its blissful bosom, 
rhiloprogenitiveness ! But not to pursue that 
interesting speculation, suffice it for the pre- 



sent to say, that so far from having no souls 
— a whim of Mahomet's, who thought but of 
their bodies — women are the sole spiritual 
beings that walk the earth not unseen ; they 
alone, without pursuing a complicated and 
scientific system of deception and hypocrisy, 
are privileged from on high to write poetry. 
We — men we mean — may affect a virtue, 
though we have it not, and appear to be in- 
spired by the divine afflatus. Nay, we some- 
times — often — are truly so inspired, and write 
like Gods. A few of us are subject to fits, and 
in them utter oracles. But the truth is too 
glaring to be denied, that all male rational 
creatures are in the long run vile, corrupt, and 
polluted ; and that the best man that ever died 
in his bed within the arms of his distracted 
wife, is wickeder far than the wcfrst woman 
that was ever iniquitously hanged for murder- 
ing what was called her poor husband, who in 
all cases righteously deserved his fate. Purity 
of mind is incompatible with manhood; and a 
monk is a monster — so is every Fellow of a 
College, and every Roman Catholic Priest, 
from Father O'Leary to Dr. Doyle. Confes- 
sions, indeed ! Why, had Joseph himself con- 
fessed all he ever felt and thought to Potiphar's 
wife, she would have frowned him from her 
presence in all the chaste dignity of virtuous 
indignation, and so far from tearing off his 
garment, would not have touched it for the 
whole world. But all women — fill men by 
marriage, or by something, if that be possible, 
worse even than marriage, try in vain to re- 
duce them nearly to their own level — are pure 
as dewdrops or moonbeams, and know not the 
meaning of evil. Their genius conjectures it; 
and in that there is no sin. But their genius 
loves best to image forth good, for 'tis the 
blessing of their life, its power, and its glory ; 
and hence, when they write poetry, it is re- 
ligious, sweet, soft, solemn., and divine. 

Observe, however — to prevent all mistakes 
— that we speak but of British women — and 
of British women of the present age. Of the 
German Fair Sex we know little or nothing ; 
but daresay that the Baroness la Motte Fouqu6 
is a worthy woman, and as vapid as the Baron. 
Neither make we any allusion to Madame Gen- 
lis, or other illustrious Lemans of the French 
school, who charitably adopted their own na- 
tural daughters, while other less pious ladies, 
who had become mothers without being wives, 
sent theirs to Foundling Hospitals. W T e restrict 
ourselves to the Maids and Matrons of this 
Island — and of this Age ; and as it is of poeti- 
cal genius that we speak — we name the names 
of Joanna Baillie, Mary Tighe, Felicia He- 
mans, Caroline Bowles, Mary Howitt, Letitia 
Elizabeth Landon, and the Lovely Norton; 
while we pronounce several other sweet-sound- 
ing Christian surnames in whispering under- 
tones of affection, almost as inaudible as the 
sound of the growing of grass on a dewy 
evening. 

Corinna and Sappho must have been women 
of transcendant genius so to move Greece. 
For though the Greek character was most im- 
pressible and combustible, it was so only to 
the finest finger and fire. In that delightful 
land dunces were all dumb. Where genius 



AN HOUR'S TALK ABOUT POETRY 



79 



alone spoke and sung poetry, how hard to ex- 
cel ! Corinna and Sappho did excel — the one, 
it is said, conquering Pindar — and the other 
all the world but Phaon. 

But our own Joanna has been visited with 
a still loftier inspiration. She has created 
tragedies which Sophocles — or Euripides — 
nay, even ^Eschylus himself, might have fear- 
ed, in competition for the crown. She is our 
Tragic Queen ; but she belongs to all places 
as to all times ; and Sir Walter truly said — let 
them who dare deny it — that he saw her Ge- 
nius in a sister shape sailing by the side of 
the Swan of Avon. Yet Joanna loves to pace 
the pastoral mead; and then we are made to 
think of the tender dawn, the clear noon, and 
the bright meridian of her life, past among the 
tall cliffs of Jhe silver Calder, and in the lone- 
some heart of^the dark Strathaven Muirs. 

Plays on the Passions! "How absurd!" 
said one philoabphical writer. "This will ne- 
ver do. It has done — perfectly. What, pray, 
is the aim of all tragedy 1 The Stagy rite has 
told us— to purify the passions by pity and 
terror. They ventilate and cleanse the soul — 
till its atmosphere is like that of a calm, bright 
summer day. All plays, therefore, must be on 
the Passions. And all that Joanna intended — 
and it was a great intention greatly effected — 
was in her Series of Dramas to steady her pur- 
poses by ever keeping one great end in view, 
of which the perpetual perception could not 
fail to make all the means harmonious, and 
therefore majestic. One passion was, there- 
fore, constituted sovereign of the soul in each 
glorious tragedy — sovereign sometimes by di- 
vine right — sometimes an usurper — generally 
a tyrant. In De Monfort we behold the horrid 
reign of Hate. But in his sister — the seraphic 
sway of Love. Darkness and light sometimes 
opposed in sublime contrast — and sometimes 
the light swallowing up the darkness — or 
"smoothing its raven down till it smiles." 
Finally, all is black as night and the grave — 
for the light, unextinguished, glides away into 
some far-off world of peace. Count Basil ! 
A woman only could have imagined that divine 
drama. How different the love Basil feels for 
Victoria from Anthony's for Cleopatra ! Pure, 
deep, high as the heaven and the sea. Yet on 
it we see him borne away to shame, destruc- 
tion, and death. It is indeed his ruling pas- 
sion. But up to the day he first saw her face 
his ruling passion had been the love of glory. 
And the hour he died by his own hand was 
troubled into madness by many passions ; for 
are they not all mysteriously linked together, 
sometimes a dreadful brotherhood 1 

Do you wonder how one mind can have such 
vivid consciousness of the feelings of another, 
while their characters are cast in such different 
moulds ] It is, indeed, wonderful — but the 
power is that of sympathy and genius. The 
dramatic poet, whose heart breathes love to all 
living things, and whose overflowing tender- 
ness diffuses itself over the beauty even of 
unliving nature, may yet paint with his cre- 
ative hand the steeled heart of him who sits on 
a throne of blood — the lust of crime in a mind 
polluted with wickedness — the remorse of acts 
which could never pass in thought through his 



imagination as his own. For, in the act of 
imagination, he can suppress in his mind its 
own peculiar feelings — its good and gracious 
affections — call up from their hidden places 
those elements of our being, of which the seeds 
were sown in him as in all — give them unna- 
tural magnitude and power — conceive the dis- 
order of passions, the perpetration of crimes, 
the tortures of remorse, or the scorn of that 
human weakness, from which his own gentle 
bosom and blameless life are pure and free. 
He can bring himself, in short, into an imagi- 
nary and momentary sympathy with the wick- 
ed, just as his mind falls of itself into a natural 
and true sympathy with those whose character 
is accordant with his own; and watching the 
emotions and workings of his mind in the 
spontaneous and in the forced sympathy, he 
knows and understands from himself what 
passes in the minds of others. What is done 
in the highest degree by the highest genius, is 
done by all of ourselves in lesser degree, and 
unconsciously, at every moment, in our inter- 
course with one another. To this kind of sym- 
pathy, so essential to our knowledge of the 
human mind, and without which there can be 
neither poetry nor philosophy, are necessary a 
largeness of heart which willingly yields itself 
to conceive the feelings and states of others 
whose character is utterly unlike its own, and 
freedom from any inordinate overpowering 
passion which quenches in the mind the feel- 
ings of nature it has already known, and places 
it in habitual enmity to the affections and hap- 
piness of its kind. To paint bad passions, is 
not to praise them : they alone can paint them, 
well who hate, fear, or pity them ; and there- 
fore Baillie has done so — nay start not — better 
than Byron. 

Well may our land be proud of such women. 
None such ever before adorned her poetical 
annals. Glance over that most interesting 
volume, "Specimens of British Poetesses," by 
that amiable, ingenious, and erudite man, the 
Reverend Alexander Dyce, and what effulgence 
begins to break towards the close of the 
eighteenth century! For ages on ages the 
genius of English women had ever and anon 
been shining forth in song ; but faint though 
fair was the lustre, and struggling imprisoned 
in clouds. Some of the sweet singers of those 
days bring tears to our eyes by their simple 
pathos — for their poetry breathes of their own 
sorrows, and shows that they were but too fa- 
miliar with grief. But their strains arc mere 
melodies "sweetly played in tune." The 
deeper harmonies of poetry seem to have been 
beyond their reach. The range of their power 
was limited. Anne, Countess of Winchelsea 
— Catherine Phillips, known by the name of 
Orinda — and Mrs. Anne Killigrew, who, as 
Dryden says, was made an angel, " in the last 
promotion to the skies," — showed, as they sang 
on earth, that they were all worthy to sing in 
heaven. But what were their hymns to those 
that are now warbled around us from many 
sister spirits, pure in their lives as they, but 
brighter far in their genius, and more fortunate 
in its nurture. Poetry from female lips was 
then half a wonder and half a reproach. But 
now 'tis no longer rare—not even the highest-- 



80 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



yes, the highest — for Innocence and Parity are 
of the highest hierarchies; and the thoughts 
and feelings they inspire, though breathed in 
words and tones, "gentle and low, an excellent 
thing in woman," are yet lofty as the stars, and 
humble too as the flowers beneath our feet. 

We have not forgotten an order of poets, pe- 
culiar, we believe, to our own enlightened land 
— a high order of poets sprung from the lower 
orders of the people — and not only sprung 
from them, but bred as well as born in " the 
huts where poor men lie," and glorifying their 
condition by the light of sung. Such glory be- 
longs — we believe — exclusively to this country 
and to this age. Mr. Southey, who in his own 
high genius and fame is never insensible to the 
virtues of his fellow-men, however humble 
and obscure the sphere in which they may 
move, has sent forth a volume — and a most 
interesting one — on the uneducated poets ; nor 
shall we presume to gainsay one of his bene- 
volent words. But this we do say, that all the 
ver;>e-writers of whom he there treats, and all 
the verse-writers of the same sort of whom he 
does not treat, that ever existed on the face of 
the earth, shrink up into a lean and shrivelled 
bundle of leaves or sticks, compared with these 
Five — Burns, Hogg, Cunningham, Bloomfield, 
and Clare. It must be a strong soil — the soil 
of this Britain — which sends up such products ; 
and we must not complain of the clime beneath 
which they grow to such height, and bear such 
fruitage. The spirit of domestic life must be 
sound — the natural knowledge of good and evil 
high — the religion true — the laws just — and 
the government, on the whole, good, methinks, 
that have all conspired to educate these chil- 
dren of genius, whose souls Nature had framed 
of the finer cla)\ 

Such men seem to us more clearly and cer- 
.ainly men of genius, than many who, under 
different circumstances, may have effected 
higher achievements. For though they en- 
joyed in their condition ineffable blessings to 
dilate their spirits, and touch them with all 
tenderest thoughts, it is not easy to imagine, on 
the other hand, the deadening or degrading 
influences to which by that condition they 
were inevitably exposed, and which keep down 
the heaven-aspiring flame of genius, or ex- 
tinguish it wholly, or hold it smouldering under 
all sorts of rubbish. Only look at the attempts 
in verse of the common run of clodhoppers. 
Buy a few ballads from the wall or stall — and 
you groan to think that you have been born — 
such is the mess of mire and filth which often, 
without the slightest intention of offence, those 
rural, city, or suburban bards of the lower 
orders prepare for boys, virgins, and matrons, 
who all devour it greedily, without suspicion. 
Strange it is that even in that mural minstrelsy, 
occasionally occurs a phrase or line, and even 
stanza, sweet and simple, and to nature true; 
but consider it in the light of poetry read,, re- 
cited, and sung by the people, and you might 
well be appalled by the revelation therein 
made of the tastes, feelings, and thoughts of 
the lower orders. And yet in the midst of all 
the popularity of such productions, the best of 
Burns' poems, his Cottar's Saturday Night, and 
most delicate of his songs, are still more popu- 



lar, and read by the same classes with a still 
greater eagerness of delight. Into this mystery 
we shall not now inquire; but we mention it 
now merely to show how divine a thing true 
genius is, which, burning within the bosoms* 
of a few favourite sons of nature, guards them 
from all such pollution, lifts them up above it 
all, purifies their whole being, and without 
consuming their family affections or friend- 
ships, or making them unhappy with their lot, 
and disgusted with all about them, reveals to 
them all that is fair and bright and beautiful in 
feeling and in imagination, makes them very 
poets indeed, and should fortune favour, and 
chance and accident, gains for them wide over 
the world, the glory of a poet's name. 

From all such evil influences incident to 
their condition — and we are now speaking but 
of the evil — The Five emerged; and first and 
foremost — Burns. Our dearly behoved Thomas 
Carlyle is reported to have said at a dinner 
given to Allan Cunningham in Dumfries, that 
Burns was not only one of the greatest of 
poets, but likewise of philosophers. We hope 
not. What he did may be told in one short 
sentence. His genius purified and ennobled 
in his imagination and in his heart the cha- 
racter and condition of the Scottish peasantry 
— and reflected them, ideally true to nature, in 
the living waters of Song. That is what he 
did ; but to do that, did not require the highest 
powers of the poet and the philosopher. Nay, 
had he marvellously possessed them, he never 
would have written a single line of the poetry 
of the late Robert Burns. Thank Heaven for 
not having made him such a man — but merely 
the Ayrshire Ploughman. He was called into 
existence for a certain work, for the fulness of 
time was come — but he was neither a Shak- 
speare, nor a Scott, nor a Goethe ; and therefore 
he rejoiced in writing the Saturday Night, and 
the Twa Dogs, and the Holy Fair, and 0' a' 
the Airts the Win' can blaw, and eke the 
Vision. But forbid it, all ye Gracious Powers ! 
that we should quarrel with Thomas Carlyle — 
and that, too, for calling Robert Burns one of 
the greatest poets and philosophers. 

Like a strong man rejoicing to run a race, 
we behold Burns in his golden prime; and 
glory gleams from the Peasant's head, far and 
wide over Scotland. See the shadow tottering 
to the tomb ! frenzied with fears of a prison — 
for some five pound debt — existing, perhaps, 
but in his diseased imagination — for, alas ! 
sorely diseased it was, and he too, at last, 
seemed somewhat insane. He escapes that 
disgrace in the grave. Buried with his bones 
be all remembrances of his miseries ! But the 
spirit of song, which was his true spirit, un- 
polluted and unfallen, lives, and breathes, and 
has its being, in the peasant-life of Scotland ; 
his songs, which are as household and sheep- 
fold words, consecrated by the charm that is 
in all the heart's purest affections, love and 
pity, and the joy of grief, shall never decay, till 
among the people have decayed the virtues 
which they celebrate, and by which they were 
inspired; and should some dismal change in 
the skies ever overshadow the sunshine of our 
national character, and savage storms end in 
sullen stillness, which is moral death, in the 



AN HOUR'S TALK ABOUT POETRY. 



81 



poetry of Burns the natives of happier lands 
will see how noble was once the degenerated 
race that may then be looking down disconso- 
lately on the dim grass of Scotland with the 
unuplifted eyes of cowards and slaves. 

The truth ought always to be spoken ; and 
therefore we say that in fancy James Hogg — 
in spite of his name and his teeth — was not 
inferior to Robert Burns — and why not 1 The 
Forest is a better school-room for Fancy than 
ever Burns studied, in ; it overflowed with 
poetical traditions. But comparisons are 
always odious; and the great glory of James 
is, that he is as unlike Robert as ever one poet 
was unlike another.' 

Among hills that once were a forest, and 
still bear that name, and by the side of a river 
not unknown in song, lying in his plaid on a 
brae among the "woolly people," behold that 
true son of genius — "The Ettrick Shepherd." 
We are never so happy as when praising 
James; but pastoral poets are the most incom- 
prehensible of God's creatures; and here is 
one of the best of them all, who confesses the 
Chaldee and denies the Noctes ! 

The Queen's Wake is a garland of fair 
forest flowers, bound with a band of rushes 
from the moor. It is not a poem — not it — nor 
was it intended to be so ; you might as well 
call a bright bouquet of flowers a flower, which, 
by the by, we do in Scotland. Some of the 
ballads are very beautiful; one or two even 
splendid ; most of them spirited ; and the worst 
far better than the best that ever was written 
by any bard in danger of being a blockhead. 
"Kilmeny" alone places our (ay, our) Shepherd 
among the Undying Ones. London soon loses 
all memory of lions, let them visit her in the 
shape of any animal they please. But the 
Heart of the Forest never forgets. It knows 
no such word as absence. The Death of a 
Poet there, is but the beginning of a Life of 
Fame. His songs no more perish than do 
flowers. There are no Annuals in the Forest. 
All are perennial ; or if they do indeed die, 
their fadings away are invisible in the constant 
succession — the sweet unbroken series of ever- 
lasting bloom. So will it be in his native 
haunts with the many songs of the Ettrick 
Shepherd. The lochs may be drained — corn 
may grow where once the Farrow flowed — nor 
is such change much more unlikely than in 
the olden time would have been thought the 
extirpation of all the vast oak-woods, where 
the deer trembled to fall into the den of the 
wolf, and the wild boar harrowed beneath the 
eagle's eyrie. All extinct now ! But obsolete 
never shall be the Shepherd's plaintive or 
pawky, his melancholy or merry, lays. The 
ghost of "Mary Lee" will be seen in the moon- 
light coming down the hills; the "Witch of 
Fife" on the clouds will still bestride her 
besom; and the "Gude Grey Cat" will mew 
in imagination, were even the last mouse on 
his last legs, and the feline species swept off 
by war, pestilence, and famine, and heard to 
pur no more! 

It is here where Burns was weakest, that the 

Shepherd is strongest— the world of shadows. 

The airy beings that to the impassioned soul 

of Burns seemed cold, bloodless, unattractive, 

11 



rise up lovely in their own silent domains, 
before the dreaming fancy of the tender-hearted 
Shepherd. The still green beauty of the pas- 
toral hills and vales where he passed all his 
days, inspired him with ever-brooding visions 
of Fairy Land, till, as he lay musing on the 
brae, the world of shadows seemed, in the clear 
depths, a softened reflection of real life, like 
the hills and heavens in the water of his native 
lake. When he speaks of Fairy Land, his 
language becomes aerial as the very voice of 
the fairy people, serenest images rise up with 
the music of the verse, and we almost believe 
in the being of those unlocalized realms of 
peace, and of which he sings like a native 
minstrel. 

Yes, James — thou wert but a poor shepherd 
to the last — poor in this world's goods — though 
Altrive Lake is a pretty little bit farmie — given 
thee by the best of Dukes — with its few laigh 
sheep-braes — its somewhat stony hayfield or 
two — its pasture where Crummie might un- 
hungered graze — nyeuck for the potato's 
bloomy or ploomy shaws — and path-divided 
from the porch — the garden, among whose 
flowers "wee Jamie" played. But nature had 
given thee, to console thy heart in all disap- 
pointments from the " false smiling of fortune 
beguiling," a boon which thou didst hug to thy 
heart with transport on the darkest day — the 
"gift o' genie," and the power of immortal 
song. 

And has Scotland to the Ettrick Shepherd 
been just — been generous — as she was — or 
was not — to the Ayrshire peasant 1 ? — has she ; 
in her conduct to him, shown her contrition 
for her sin — whatever that may have been — to 
Burns 1 It is hard to tell. Fashion tosses the 
feathered head — and gentility turns away her 
painted cheek from the Mountain Bard; but 
when, at the shrine of true poetry, did ever 
such votaries devoutly worship 1 Cold, false, 
and hollow, ever has been their admiration of 
genius — and different, indeed, from their evan- 
escent ejaculations, has ever been the enduring 
voice of fame. Scorn be to the scorners ! But 
Scott, and Wordsworth, and Sou they and 
Byron, and the other great bards, have all 
loved the Shepherd's lays — and Joanna the 
palm-crowned, and Felicia the muse's darling, 
and Caroline the Christian poetess, and all the 
other fair female spirits of song. And in hi» 
native land, all hearts that love her streams, 
and her hills, and her cottages, and her kirks, 
the bee-humming garden and the primrose- 
circled fold, the white hawthorn and the green 
fairy-knowe, all delight in Kilmeny and Mary 
Lee, and in many another vision that visited 
the Shepherd in the Forest. 

And what can surpass many of the Shep- 
herd's songs ? The most undefinable of all 
undefinable kinds of poetical inspiration are 
surely — Songs. They seem to start up indeed 
from the dew-sprinkled soil of a poet's soul, 
like flowers; the first stanza being root, the 
second leaf, the third bud, and all the rest 
blossom, till the song is like a stalk laden with 
its own beauty, and laying itself down in 
languid delight on the soft bed. of moss — song 
and flower alike having the same " dying 
fall!" 



82 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



A fragment ! And the more piteous because 
a fragment. Go in search of the pathetic, and 
you will find it tear-steeped, sigh-breathed, 
moan-muttered, and groaned in fragments. 
The poet seems often struck dumb by wo — 
his heart feels that suffering is at its acme — 
and that he should break off and away from a 
sight too sad to be longer looked on — haply 
too humiliating to be disclosed. So, too, it 
sometimes is with the beautiful. The soul in 
its delight seeks to escape from the emotion 
that oppresses it — is speechless — and the song 
falls mute. Such is frequently the character 
— and the origin of that character — of our auld 
Scottish Sangs. In their mournfulness are 
they not almost like the wail of some bird dis- 
tracted on the bush from which its nest has 
been harried, and then suddenly flying away 
for ever into the woods ? In their joyfulness, 
are they not almost like the hymn of some 
bird, that love-stricken suddenly darts from the 
tree-top down to the caresses that flutter through 
the spring] And such, too, are often the airs 
to which those dear auld sangs are sung. 
From excess of feeling— fragmentary ; or of 
one divine part to which genius may be defied 
to conceive another, because but one hour in 
all time could have given it birth. 

You may call this pure nonsense — but 'tis so 
pure that you need not fear to swallow it. All 
great song-writers, nevertheless, have been 
great thieves. Those who had the blessed fate 
to flourish first — to be born when "this auld 
cloak was new,"— -the cloak we mean which 
nature wears — scrupled not to creep upon her 
as she lay asleep beneath the shadow of some 
single tree among 

"The grace of forest-woods decay'd, 
And pastoral melancholy," 

and to steal the very pearls out of her hair — 
out of the silken snood which enamoured Pan 
himself had not untied in the Golden Age. Or 
if she ventured, as sometimes she did, to walk 
along the highways of the earth, they robbed 
her in the face of day of her dew-wrought reti- 
cule — without hurting, however, the hand from 
which they brushed that net of gossamer. 

Then came the Silver Age of Song, the age 
in which we now live — and the song-singers 
were thieves still — stealing and robbing from 
them who had stolen and robbed of old; 
yet, how account you for this phenomenon — 
all parties remain richer than ever — and Na- 
ture, especially, after all this thieving and 
robbery, and piracy and plunder, many mil- 
lion times richer than the day on which she 
received her dowry, 

"The bridal of the earth and sky ;" 
and with " golden store" sufficient in its scat- 
terings to enable all the sons of genius she 
•will ever bear, to "set up for themselves" in 
poetry, accumulating capital upon capital, till 
each is a Croesus, rejoicing to lend it out with- 
out any other interest than cent per cent, paid in 
sighs, smiles, and tears, and without any other 
security than the promise of a quiet eye, 

"That broods and sleeps on its own heart !" 
Amongst the most famous thit es in our time 
have been Rob, James, and Allan. Burns never 



saw or heard a jewel or a tune of a thought or 
a feeling, but he immediately made it his own 
— that is, stole it. He was too honest a man 
to refrain from such thefts. The thoughts and 
feelings — to whom by divine right did they be- 
long? To Nature. But Burns beheld them 
" waif and stray," and in peril of being lost for 
ever. He seized then on those " snatches of 
old songs," wavering away into the same ob- 
livion that lies on the graves of the nameless 
bards who first gave them being; and now, 
spiritually interfused with his own lays, they 
are secured against decay — and like them im- 
mortal. So hath the Shepherd stolen many 
of the Flowers of the Forest — whose beauty 
had breathed there ever since Flodden's fatal 
overthrow ; but they had been long fading and 
pining away in the solitary places, wherein so 
many of their kindred had utterly disappeared, 
and beneath the restoring light of his genius 
their bloom and their balm were for ever re- 
newed. But the thief of all thieves is the Niths- 
dale and Galloway thief — called by Sir Walter 
most characteristically, "Honest Allan!" Thief 
and forger as he is — we often wonder why he 
is permitted to live. Many is the sweet stanza 
he has stolen from Time — that silly old 
carle who kens not even his own — many the 
lifelike line — and many the strange single word 
that seems to possess the power of all the parts 
of speech. And, having stolen them, to what use 
did he turn the treasures? Why, unable to 
give back every man his own — for they were 
all dead, buried, and forgotten — by a potent 
prayer he evoked from his Pool-Palace, over- 
shadowed by the Dalswinton woods, the Genius 
of the Nith, to preserve the gathered flowers 
of song for ever unwithered, for that they all 
had grown ages ago beneath and around the 
green shadows of Criffel, and longed now to be 
embalmed in the purity of the purest river that 
Scotland sees flowing in unsullied silver to the 
sea. But the Genius of the Nith — frowning and 
smiling — as he looked upon his son alternately 
in anger, love, and pride — refused the votive 
offering, and told him to be gone ; for that he — 
the Genius — was not a Cromek — and could 
distinguish with half an eye what belonged to 
antiquity, from what had undergone, in Allan's 
hands, change into " something rich and rare ;" 
and above all, from what had been blown to 
life that very year by the breath of Allan's own 
genius, love-inspired by " his ain lassie," the 
" lass that he loe'd best," springing from seeds 
itself had sown, and cherished by the dews of 
the same gracious skies, that filled with motion 
and music the transparency of the river god's 
never-failing urn. 

We love Allan's " Maid of Elvar." It beats 
with a fine, free, bold, and healthful spirit. 
Along with the growth of the mutual love of 
Eustace and Sybil, he paints peasant-life with 
a pen that reminds us of the pencil of Wilkie. 
He is as familiar with it all as Burns ; and 
Burns would have perused with tears many 
of these pictures, even the most cheerful — for 
the flood-gates of Robin's heart often suddenly 
flung themselves open to a touch, while a rush- 
ing gush — wondering gazers knew not why— 
bedimmed the lustre of his large black eyes. 
Allan gives us descriptions of Washings and 



AN HOUR'S TALK ABOUT POETRY. 



83 



Watchings o' claes, as Homer has done before 
him in the Odyssey, and that other Allan in 
the Gentle Shepherd — of Kirks, and Christen- 
ings, and Hallowe'ens, and other Festivals. 
Nor has he feared to string his lyre — why 
should he? — to such themes as the Cottar's 
Saturday Night — and the simple ritual of our 
faith, sung and said 

"In some small kirk upon the sunny brae, 
That stands all by itself on some sweet Sabbath-day." 

Ay, many are the merits of this "Rustic 
Tale." To appreciate them properly, Ave must 
carry along with us, during the perusal of the 
poem, a right understanding and feeling of that 
pleasant epithet — Rustic. Rusticity and Ur- 
banity are polar opposites — and there lie be- 
tween many million modes of Manners, which 
you know are Minor Morals. But not to puz- 
zle a subject in itself sufficiently simple, the 
same person maybe at once rustic and urbane, 
and that too, either in his character of man or 
of poet, or in his twofold capacity of both; for 
observe that though you may be a man without 
being a poet, we defy you to be a poet without 
being a man. A Rustic is a clodhopper ; an Ur- 
bane is apaviour. But it is obvious thatthepa- 
viour in a field hops the clod ; that the clodhopper 
in a street paces the pavee. At the same time, 
it is equally obvious that the paviour, in hop- 
ping the clod, performs the feat with a sort of 
city smoke, which breathes of bricks ; that the 
clodhopper, in pacing the pavee, overcomes the 
difficulty with a kind of country air, that is 
redolent of broom. Probably, too, Urbanus 
through a deep fallow is seen ploughing his 
way in pumps ; Rusticus along the shallow 
stones is heard clattering on clogs. But to 
cease pursuing the subject through all its vari- 
ations, suffice it for the present (for we per- 
ceive that we must resume the discussion 
another time) to say, that Allan Cunningham 
is a living example and lively proof of the truth 
of our Philosophy — it being universally al- 
lowed in the best circles of town and country, 
that he is an Urbaxe Rustic. 

Now, that is the man for our love and mo- 
ney, when the work to be done is a Poem on 
Scottish Life. 

We can say of Allan what Allan says of 
Eustace : 

"far from the pasture moor 

He comes ; the fragrance of the dale and wood 
Is scenting all his garments, green and good." 

The rural imagery is fresh and fair; not 
copied Cockney-wise, from pictures in oil 
or water-colours — from mezzotintoes or line- 
engravings — but from the free open face of 
day, or the dim retiring face of eve, or the 
face, "black but comely," of night — by sun- 
light or moonlight, ever Nature. Sometimes 
he gives us — Studies. Small, sweet, sunny 
spots of still or dancing day — stream-gleam— 
grove-glow — sky-glympse — or cottage-roof, in 
the deep dell sending up its smoke to the high 
heavens. But usually Allan paints with a 
sweeping pencil. He lays down his land- 
scapes, stretching wide and far, and fills them 
with woods and rivers, hills and mountains, 
flocks of sheep and herds of cattle ; and of all 
sights in life and nature, none so dear to his 



eyes as the golden grain, ebbing like tide of 
sea before a close long line of glancing sickles 
— no sound so sweet as, rising up into the 
pure harvest-air, frost-touched though sunny 
— beneath the shade of hedge-row-tree, after 
their mid-day meal, the song of the jolly reap- 
ers. But are not his pictures sometimes too 
crowded 1 No. For there lies the power of 
the pen over the pencil. The pencil can do 
much, the pen every thing; the Painter is im- 
prisoned within a few feet of canvas, the 
Poet commands the horizon with an eye that 
circumnavigates the globe ; even that glorious 
pageant, a painted Panorama, is circumscribed 
by bounds, over which imagination, feeling 
them all too narrow, is uneasy till she soars ; 
but the Poet's Panorama is commensurate 
with the soul's desires, and may include the 
Universe. 

This Poem reads as if it had been written 
during the " dewy hour of prime." Allan must 
be an early riser. But, if not so now, some 
forty years ago he was up every morning with 
the lark, 

" Walking to labour by that cheerful song,'* 

away up the Nith, through the Dalswinton 
woods ; or, for any thing we know to the 
contrary, intersecting with stone-walls, that 
wanted not their scientific coping, the green 
pastures of Sanquhar. Now he is familiar 
with Chantry's form-full statues; then, with 
the shapeless cairn on the moor, the rude 
headstone on the martyr's grave. And thus 
it is that the present has given him power 
over the past — that a certain grace and deli- 
cacy, inspired by the pursuits of his prime, 
blend with the creative dreams that are peo- 
pled with the lights and shadows of his youth 
— that the spirit of the old ballad breathes still 
in its strong simplicity through the composi- 
tion of his " New Poem" — and that art is seen 
harmoniously blending there with nature. 

We have said already that we delight in the 
story ; for it belongs to an " order of fables 
gray," which has been ever dear to Poets. 
Poets have ever loved to bring into the plea- 
sant places and paths of lowly life, persons 
(we eschew all manner of personages and heroes 
and heroines, especially with the epithet " our" 
prefixed) whose native lot lay in a higher 
sphere : For they felt that by such contrast, 
natural though rare, a beautiful light was mu- 
tually reflected from each condition, and that 
sacred revelations were thereby made of hu- 
man character, of which all that is pure and 
profound appertains equally to all estates of 
this our mortal being, provided only that hap- 
piness knows from whom it comes, and that 
misery and misfortune are alleviated by reli- 
gion. Thus Electra appears before us at her 
father's Tomb, the virgin-wife of the peasant 
Auturgus, who reverently abstains from the 
intact body of the daughter of the king. Look 
into Shakspeare. Rosalind was not so love- 
able at court as in the woods. Her beauty 
might have been more brilliant, and her con- 
versation too, among lords and ladies ; but 
more touching both, because true to tenderer 
nature, when we see and hear her in dialogue 
with the neat-herdess — Rosalind and Audrey J 



84 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



And trickles not the tear clown thy cheek, fair 
reader — burns not the heart within thee, when 
thou thinkest of Florizel and Perdita on the 
Farm in the Forest] 

Nor from those visions need we fear to turn 
to Sybil Lesley. We see her in Elvar Tower, 
a high-born Lady — in Dalgonar Glen, an hum- 
ble bondmaid. The change might have been 
the reverse — as with the lassie beloved by 
the Gentle Shepherd. Both are best. The 
bust that gloriously set off the burnishing of 
the rounded silk, not less divinely shrouded 
its enchantment beneath the swelling russet. 
Graceful in bower or hall were those arms, 
and delicate those fingers, when moving white 
along the rich embroidery, or across the strings 
of the sculptured harp; nor less so when be- 
fore the cottage door they woke the homely 
music of the humming wheel, or when on the 
brae beside the Pool, they playfully intertwined 
their softness with the new-washed fleeces, or 
when among the laughing lasses at the Linn, 
not loath were they to lay out the coarse linen 
in the bleaching sunshine, conspicuous She 
the while among the rustic beauties, as was 
Nausicaa of old among her nymphs at the 
Fountain. 

We are in love with Sybil Lesley. She is 
full of spank. That is not a vulgar word ; or 
if it have been so heretofore, henceforth let it 
cease to be so, and be held synonymous with 
spirit. She shows it in her defiance of Sir 
Ralph on the shore of Solway — in her flight 
from the Tower of Elvar; and the character 
she displays then and there, prepares us for 
the part she plays in the peasant's cot in the 
glen of Dalgonar. We are not surprised to 
see her take so kindly to the duties of a rustic 
service; for we call to mind how she sat 
among the humble good-folks in the hall, when 
Thrift and Waste figured in that rude but 
wise Morality, and how the gracious lady 
showed she sympathized with the cares and 
contentments of lowly life. 

England has singled out John Clare from 
among her humble sons, (Ebenezer Elliot be- 
longs altogether to another order) — as the 
most conspicuous for poetical genius, next to 
Robert Bloomfield. That is a proud distinc- 
tion — whatever critics may choose to say ; and 
we cordially sympathize with the beautiful ex- 
pression of his gratitude to the Rural Muse, 
when he says — 

"Like as the little lark from off its nest, 
Beside the mossy hill, awakes in glee, 
To seek the morning's throne, a merry guest- 
So do I seek thy shrine, if that may be, 
To win by new attempts another smile from thee." 

Now, England is out of all sight the most 
beautiful country in the whole world — Scotland 
alone excepted — and, thank heaven, they two 
are one kingdom — divided by no line either 
real or imaginary — united by the Tweed. We 
forget at this moment — if ever we knew it — 
the precise number of her counties ; but we 
remember that one and all of them — " alike, 
but oh ! how different" — are fit birth-places 
and abodes for poets. Some of them we know 
veil, are flat — and we in Scotland, with hills 
or mountains for ever before our eyes, are 
sometimes disposed to find fault with them on 



that ground — as if nature were not at liberty 
to find her own level. Flat indeed! So is the 
sea. Wait till you have walked a few miles 
in among the Fens — and you will be wafted 
along like a little sail-boat, up and down 
undulations green and gladsome as waves. 
Think ye there is no scenery there ] Why, 
you are in the heart of a vast metropolis ! — yet 
have not the sense to see the silent city of 
mole-hills sleeping in the sun. Call that pond 
a lake — and by a word how is it transfigured] 
Now you discern flowers unfolding on its low 
banks and braes — and the rustle of the rushes 
is like that of a tiny forest — how appropriate 
to the wild! Gaze — and to your gaze what 
colouring grows! Not in green only — or in 
russet brown doth nature choose to be ap- 
parelled in this her solitude — nor ever again 
will you call her dreary here — for see how 
everyone of those fifty flying showers lightens 
up its own line of beauty along the plain — in- 
stantaneous as dreams — or stationary as wak- 
ing thought — till, ere you are aware that all 
was changing, the variety has all melted away 
into one harmonious glow, attempered by that 
rainbow. 

Let these few words suffice to show that we 
understand and feel the flattest — dullest — tam- 
est places, as they are most ignorantly called 
— that have yet been discovered in England. 
Not in such did John Clare abide — but many 
such he hath traversed ; and his studies have 
been from childhood upwards among scenes 
which to ordinary eyes might seem to afford 
small scope and few materials for contempla- 
tion. But his are not ordinary eyes — but 
gifted; and in every nook and corner of his 
own county the Northamptonshire Peasant 
has, during some two score years and more, 
every spring found without seeking either 
some lovelier aspect of " the old familiar 
faces," or some new faces smiling upon him, 
as if mutual recognition kindled joy and amity 
in their hearts. 

John Clare often reminds us of James Gra- 
hame. They are two of our most artless poets. 
Their versification is mostly very sweet, though 
rather flowing forth according to a certain 
fine natural sense of melody, than constructed 
on any principles of music. So, too, with their 
imagery, which seems seldom selected with 
much care ; so that, while it is always true to 
nature, and often possesses a charm from its 
appearing to rise up of itself, and with little or 
no effort on the poet's part to form a picture, it 
is not unfrequently chargeable with repetition 
— sometimes, perhaps, with a sameness which, 
but for the inherent interest in the objects 
themselves, might be felt a little wearisome — 
there is so much still life. They are both most 
affectionately disposed towards all manner of 
birds. Grahame's "Birds of Scotland" is a 
delightful poem; yet its best passages are 
not superior to some of Clare's about the 
same charming creatures — and they are both 
ornithologists after Audubon's and our own 
heart. Were all that has been well written 
in English verse about birds to be gathered 
together, what a sweet set of volumes it would 
make ! And how many, think ye — three, six, 
twelve] That would be indeed an aviary — 



AN HOUR'S TALK ABOUT POETRY. 



85 



the only one we can think of with pleasure — 
out of the hedge-rows and the woods. Tories 
as we are, we never see a wild bird on the 
wing without inhaling in silence " the Cause 
of Liberty all over the world !" We feel then 
that it is indeed " like the air we breathe — 
without it we die." So do they. We have 
been reading lately, for a leisure hour or two 
of an evening — a volume by a worthy German, 
Doctor Bechstein — on Cage Birds. The slave- 
dealer never for a moment suspects the wicked- 
ness of kidnapping young and old — crimping 
them for life — teaching them to draw water — 
and, oh ncfas! to sing! He seems to think 
that only in confinement do they fulfil the ends 
of their existence — even the skylark. Yet he 
sees them, one and all, subject to the most 
miserable diseases — and rotting away within 
the wires. Why could not the Doctor have 
taken a stroll into the country once or twice a- 
week, and in one morning or evening hour 
laid in sufficient music to serve him during 
the intervening time, without causing a single 
bosom to be ruffled for his sake? Shoot them 
-^spit them — pie them — pickle them — eat them 
— but imprison them not; we speak as Con- 
servatives — murder rather than immure them 
— for more forgivable far it is to cut short 
their songs at the height of glee, than to pro- 
tract them in a rueful simulation of music, in 
which 3 r ou hear the same sweet notes, but if 
your heart thinks at all, "a voice of weeping 
and of loud lament" all unlike, alas! to the 
congratulation that from the free choirs is 
ringing so exultingly in their native woods. 

How prettily Clare writes of the " insect 
youth." 

"These tiny loiterers on the barley's beard, 
And happy "units of a numerous herd 
Of playfellows the laughing Summer brings, 
Mocking the sunshine on their glittering wings, 
How merrily they creep, and run, and fly ! 
No kin they bear to labour's drudgery, 
Smoofhingthe velvet of the pale hedge-rose ; 
And where they fly for dinner no one knows — 
The dewdrops feed them not — they love the shine 
Of noon, whose sons may bring them golden wine. 
All day they're playing in their Sunday dress — 
When "night repose, for they can do no less ; 
Then to the heath-bell's purple hood they fly, 
And like to princes in their slumbers lie, 
Secure from rain, and dropping dews, and all, 
In silken beds and roomy painted hall. 
So merrily they spend their summer-day, 
Now in the corn-fields, now in the new-mown hay. 
One almost fancies that such happy things, 
With colour'd hoods and richly-burnish'd wings, 
Are fairy folk, in splendid masquerade 
Disguised, as if of mortal folk afraid. 
Keeping their joyous pranks a mystery still, 
Lest glaring day should do their secrets ill." 

Time has been — nor yet very long ago — 
when such unpretending poetry as this — hum- 
ble indeed in every sense, but nevertheless the 
product of genius which speaks for itself audi- 
bly and clearly in lowliest strains — would not 
have passed by unheeded or un beloved; now- 
a-days it may to many who hold their heads 
high, seem of no more worth than an old song. 
But as Wordsworth says, 

" Pleasures newly found are sweet, , 
Though they lie about our feet ;" 

and if stately people would but stoop and look 
about their paths, which do not always run 
along the heights, they would often make dis- 
coveries of what concerned them more than 
speculations among the stars. 



It is not to be thought, however, that the 
Northamptonshire Peasant does not often treat 
earnestly of the common pleasures and pains, 
the cares and occupations of that condition of 
life in which he was born, and has passed all 
his days. He knows them well, and has illus- 
trated them well, though seldomer in his later 
than in his earlier poems ; and we cannot help 
thinking that he might greatly extend his popu- 
larity, which in England is considerable, by 
devoting his Rural Muse to subjects lying 
within his ken, and of everlasting interest. 
Bloomfield's reputation rests on his " Farmer's 
Boy" — on some exquisite passages on "News 
from the Farm" — and on some of the tales and 
pictures in his " May-day with the Muses." His 
smaller poems are very inferior to those of 
Clare — But the Northamptonshire Peasant has 
written nothing in which all honest English 
hearts must delight, at all comparable with 
those truly rural compositions of the Suffolk 
shoemaker. It is in his power to do so — would 
he but earnestly set himself to the work. He 
must be more familiar with all the ongoings 
of 'rural life than his compeer could have 
been ; nor need he fear to tread again the same 
ground, for it is as new as if it had never been 
touched, and will continue to be so till the end 
of time. The soil in which the native virtues 
of the English character grow, is unexhausted 
and inexhaustible ; let him break it up on any 
spot he chooses, and poetry will spring to light 
like clover from lime. Nor need he fear being 
an imitator. His mind is an original one, his 
most indifferent verses prove it; for though 
he must have read much poetry since his ear- 
lier day — doubtless all our best modern poetry 
— he retains his own style, which though it be 
not marked by any very strong characteristics, 
is yet sufficiently peculiar to show that it be- 
longs to himself, and is a natural gift. Pasto- 
rals — eclogues — and idyls — in a hundred forms 
— remain to be written by such poets as he 
and his brethren ; and there can be no doubt 
at all, that if he will scheme something of the 
kind, and begin upon it, without waiting to 
know fully or clearly what he may be intend- 
ing, that before three winters, with their long 
nights, are gone, he will find himself in pos- 
session of more than mere materials for a 
volume of poems that will meet with general 
acceptation, and give him a permanent place 
by the side of him he loves so well — Robert 
Bloomfield. 

Ebenezer Elliot (of whom more another day) 
claims with pride to be the Poet of the Poor — 
and the poor might well be proud, did they 
know it, that they have such a poet. Not a 
few of them know it now — and many will 
know it in future ; for a muse of fire like his 
will yet send its illumination " into dark deep 
holds." May it consume all the noxious va- 
pours that infest such regions — and purify the 
atmosphere — till the air breathed there be the 
breath of life. But the poor have other poets 
besides him — Crabbe and Burns. We again 
mention their names — and no more. Kindly 
spirits were they both; but Burns had experi 
enced all his poetry — and therefore his poetry 
is an embodiment of national character. We 
say it not in disparagement or reproof of Ebe- 
H 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



wezer — conspicuous over all — for let all men 
speak as they think or feel — but how gentle in 
all his noblest inspirations was Robin ! He 
did not shun sins or sorrows ; but he told the 
truth of the poor man's life, when he showed 
that it was, on the whole, virtuous and happy 
— bear witness those immortal strains, "The 
Twa Dogs," "The Vision," "The Cottar's 
Saturday night," the sangs voiced all braid 
Scotland thorough by her boys and virgins, say 
rather her lads and lassies — while the lark 
sings aloft and the linnet below, the mavis in 
the golden broom accompanying the music in 
the golden cloud. We desire — not in wilful 
delusion — but in earnest hope — in devout trust 
— that poetry shall show that the paths of the 
peasant poor are paths of pleasantness and 
peace. If they should seem in that light even 
pleasanter and more peaceful than they ever 
now can be below the sun, think not that any 
evil can arise " to mortal man who liveth here 
by toil" from such representations — for imagi- 
nation and reality are not two different things 
— they blend in life; but there the darker sha- 
dows do often, alas ! prevail — and sometimes 
may be felt even by the hand; whereas in 
poetry the lights are triumphant — and gazing 
on the glory men's hearts burn within them — 
and they carry the joy in among their own 
griefs, till despondency gives way to exulta- 
tion, and the day's darg of this worky world is 
lightened by a dawn of dreams. 

This is the effect of all good poetry — accord- 
ing to its power — of the poetry of Robert 
Bloomfield as of the poetry of Robert Burns. 
John Clare, too, is well entitled to a portion of 
such praise; and therefore his name deserves 
to become a household word in the dwellings 
of the rural poor. Living in leisure among 
the scenes in which he once toiled, may he 
once more contemplate them all without dis- 
turbance. Having lost none of his sympa- 
thies, he has learnt to refine them all and see 
into their source — and wiser in his simplicity 
than they who were formerly his yokefellows 
are in theirs, he knows many things well which 
they know imperfectly or not at all, and is pri- 
vileged therein to be their teacher. Surely in 
an age when the smallest contribution to 
science is duly estimated, and useful know- 
ledge not only held in honour but diffused, 
poetry ought not to be despised, more especi- 
ally when emanating from them who belong 
to the very condition which they seek to illus- 
trate, and whose ambition it is to do justice to 
its natural enjoyments and appropriate virtues. 
In spite of all they have suffered, and still suf- 
fer, the peasantry of England are a race that 
may be regarded with better feelings than 
pride. We look forward confidently to the 
time when education — already in much good — 
and if the plans of the wisest counsellors pre- 
vail, about to become altogether good — will 
raise at once their condition and their charac- 
ter. The Government has its duties to dis- 
charge — clear as day. And what is not in the 
power of the gentlemen of England 1 ? Let 
them exert that power to the utmost — and then 
indeed they will deserve the noble name of 
-'Aristocracy." We speak not thus in re- 
proach — for they better deserve that name 



than the same order in any other country ; but 
in no other country are such interests given to 
that order in trust — and as they attend to that 
trust is the glory or the shame — the blessing 
or the curse — of their high estate. 

But let us retrace our footsteps in moraliz- 
ing moodj not unmixed with sadness — to the 
Mausoleum of Burns. Scotland is abused by 
England for having starved Burns to death, or 
for having suffered him to drink himself to 
death, out of a cup filled to the brim with bit- 
ter disappointment and black despair. Eng- 
land lies. There is our gage-glove, let her 
take it up, and then for mortal combat with 
sword and spear — only not on horseback — for, 
for reasons on which it would be idle to be 
more explicit, we always fight now on foot, 
and have sent our high horse to graze all the 
rest of his life on the mountains of the moon. 
Well then, Scotland met Burns, on his first 
sun-burst, with one exulting acclaim. Scot- 
land bought and read his poetry, and Burns, 
for a poor man, became rich — rich to his 
heart's desire — and reached the summit of his 
ambition, in the way of this world's life, in a 
— Farm. Blithe Robin would have scorned 
" an awmous" from any hands but from those 
of nature ; nor in those days needed he help 
from woman-born. True, that times begun by 
and by to go rather hard with him, and he 
with them ; for his mode of life was not 

" Such as grave livers do in Scotland use," 
and as we sow we must reap. His day of life 
began to darken ere meridian — and the dark- 
ness doubtless had brought disturbance before 
it had been perceived by any eyes but his own 
— for people are always looking to themselves 
and their own lot; and how much mortal 
misery may for years be daily depicted in the 
face, figure, or manners even of a friend, with- 
out our seeing or suspecting it! Till all at 
once he makes a confession, and we then know 
that he has been long numbered among the 
most wretched of the wretched — the slave of 
his own sins and sorrows — or thralled beneath 
those of another, to whom fate may have given 
sovereign power over his whole life. Well, 
then — or rather ill, then — Burns behaved as 
most men do in misery — and the farm going 
to ruin — that is, crop and stock to pay the rent 
— he desired to be — and was made — an Ex- 
ciseman. And for that — you ninny — you are 
whinnying scornfully at Scotland ! Many a 
better man than yourself— beg your pardon — 
has been, and is now, an Exciseman. Nay, 
to be plain with you — we doubt if your educa- 
tion has been sufficiently intellectual for an 
Exciseman. We never heard it said of you, 

"And even the story ran that he could gauge." 
Burns then was made what he desired to be — 
what he was fit for — though you are not — and 
what was in itself respectable — an Exciseman. 
His salary was not so large certainly as that 
of the Bishop of Durham — or even of London 
— but it was certainly larger than that of many 
a curate at that time doing perhaps double or 
treble duty in those dioceses, without much 
audible complaint on their part, or outcry from 
Scotland against blind and brutal English bi- 
shops, or against beggarly England, for starving 



AN HOUR'S TALK ABOUT POETRY. 



87 



her pauper-curates, by whatever genius or 
erudition adorned. Burns died an Exciseman, 
it is true, at the age of thirty-seven ; on the 
same day died an English curate we could 
name, a surpassing scholar, and of stainless 
virtue, blind, palsied, "old and miserably 
poor" — without as much money as would bury 
him; and no wonder, for he never had the 
salary of a Scotch Exciseman. 

Two blacks — nay twenty — won't make a 
white. True — but one black is as black as 
another — and the Southern Pot, brazen as 
it is, must not abuse with impunity the North- 
ern Pan. But now to the right nail, and let us 
knock it on the head. What did England do 
for her own Bloomfield] He was not in ge- 
nius to be spoken of in the same year with 
Burns — but he was beyond all compare, and 
out of all sight, the best poet that had arisen 
produced by England's lower orders. He was 
the most spiritual shoemaker that ever handled 
an awl. The Farmer's Boy is a wonderful 
poem — and will live in the poetry of England. 
Did England, then, keep Bloomfield in comfort, 
and scatter flowers along the smooth and 
sunny path that led him to the grave 1 No. 
He had given him, by some minister or other, 
we believe Lord Sidmouth, a paltry place in 
some office or other — most uncongenial with 
all his nature and all his habits — of which the 
shabby salary was insufficient to purchase for 
his family even the bare necessaries of life. 
He thus dragged out for many long obscure 
years a sickly existence, as miserable as the 
existence of a good man can be made by 
narrowest circumstances — and all the while 
Englishmen were scoffingly scorning, with 
haughty and bitter taunts, the patronage that, 
at his own earnest desire, made Burns an Ex- 
ciseman. Nay, when Southey, late in Bloom- 
field's life, and when it was drawing mourn- 
fully to a close, proposed a contribution for 
his behoof, and put down his own five pounds, 
how many purse-strings were untied 1 how 
much fine gold was poured out for the indi- 
gent son of genius and virtue] Shame shuffles 
the sum out of sight — for it was not sufficient 
to have bought the manumission of an old 
negro slave. 

It was no easy matter to deal rightly with 
such a man as Burns. In those disturbed and 
distracted times, still more difficult was it to 
carry into execution any designs for his good — 
and much was there even to excuse his coun- 
trymen then in power for looking upon him 
with an evil eye. But Bloomfield led a pure, 
peaceable, and blameless life. Easy, indeed, 
would it have been to make him happy — but 
he was as much forgotten as if he had been 
dead; and when he died — did England mourn 
over him — or, after having denied him bread, 
give him so much as a stone ] No. He dropt 
into the grave with no other lament we ever 
heard of but a few copies of poorish verses in 
some of the Annuals, and seldom or never now 
does one hear a whisper of his name. fie ! 
well may the white rose blush red — and the 
red rose turn pale. Let England then leave 
Scotland to her shame about Burns ; and, think- 
ing of her own treatment of Bloomfield, cover 
her own face with both her hands, and con- 



fess that it was pitiful. At least, if she will nc» 
hang down her head in humiliation for her own 
neglect of her own "poetic child," let her not 
hold it high over Scotland for the neglect of 
hers — palliated as that neglect was by many 
things — and since, in some measure, expiated 
by a whole nation's tears shed over her great 
poet's grave. 

What ! not a word for Allan Ramsa3 r 1 The- 
ocritus was a pleasant Pastoral, and Sicilia sees 
him among the stars. But all his dear Idyls 
together are not equal in worth to the singk 
Gentle Shepherd. Habbie's How is a hallowed 
place now among the green airy Pentlands. 
Sacred for ever the solitary murmur of that 
waterfa' f 

" A flowerie howm, between twa verdant hraes, 
Where lassies use to wash and bleach their claes ; 
A trotting burnie, wimpling through the ground, 
It's channel pebbles, shining, smooth, and round: 
Here view twa barefoot beauties, clean and clear, 
'Twill please your eye, then gratify your ear; 
While Jenny what she wishes discommends, 
And Meg, with better sense, true love defends!" 

"About them and siclike," is the whole poem. 
Yet " faithful loves shall memorize the song." 
Without any scenery but that of rafters, which 
overhead fancy may suppose a grove, 'tis even 
yet sometimes acted by rustics in the barn, 
though nothing on this earth will ever persuade 
a low-born Scottish lass to take a part in a play ; 
while delightful is felt, even by the lords and 
ladies of the land, the simple Drama of humble 
life ; and we ourselves have seen a high-born 
maiden look " beautiful exceedingly" as Patie's 
Betrothed, kilted to the knee in the kirtle of a 
Shepherdess. 

We have been gradually growing national 
overmuch, and are about to grow even more 
so, therefore ask you to what era, pray, did 
Thomson belong ] To none. Thomson had 
no precursor — and till Cowper no follower. He 
effulged all at once sunlike — like Scotland's 
storm-loving, mist-enamoured sun, which till 
you have seen on a day of thunder, you can- 
not be said ever to have seen the sun. Cow- 
per followed Thomson merely in time. We 
should have had the Task, even had we never 
had the Seasons. These two were "Heralds 
of a mighty train ensuing ;" add them, then, to 
the worthies of our own age, and they belong 
to it — and all the rest of the poetry of the mo- 
dern world — to w r hich add that of the ancient — 
if multiplied by ten in quantity — and by twenty 
in quality — would not so variously, so vigor- 
ously, and so truly image the form and pres- 
sure, the life and spirit of the mother of us all 
— Nature. Are then the Seasons and the Task 
Great Poems'? Yes,— Why ? What! Do 
you need to be told that that Poem must be 
great, which was the first to paint the rolling 
mystery of the year, and to show that all its 
Seasons are but the varied God? The idea 
was original and sublime ; and the fulfilment 
thereof so complete, that some six thousand 
years having elapsed between the creation of 
the world and of that poem, some sixty thou- 
sand, we prophesy, will elapse between the ap- 
pearance of that poem and the publication of 
another equally great, on a subject external to 
the mind, equally magnificent. We further 
presume, that you hold sacred the Hearth. 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



Now, in the Task, the Hearth is the heart of 
the poem, just as it is of a happy house. No 
other poem is so full of domestic happiness — 
humble and high ; none is so breathed over by 
the spirit of the Christian religion. 

Poetry, which, though not dead, had long 
been sleeping in Scotland, was restored to 
waking life by Thomson. His genius was na- 
tional; and so, too, was the subject of his first 
and greatest song. By saying that his genius 
was national, we mean that its temperament 
was enthusiastic and passionate, and that, 
though highly imaginative, the sources of its 
power lay in the heart. The Castle of Indo- 
lence is distinguished by purer taste and finer 
fancy; but with all its exquisite beauties, that 
poem is but the vision of a dream. The Sea- 
sons are glorious realities; and the charm of 
the strain that sings the "rolling year" is its 
truth. But what mean we by saying that the 
Seasons are a national subject 1 — do we assert 
that they are solely Scottish 1 That would be 
too bold, even for us ; but we scruple not to 
assert, that Thomson has made them so, as far 
as might be without insult, injury, or injustice, 
to the rest of the globe. His suns rise and set 
in Scottish heavens ; his " deep-fermenting 
tempests are brewed in grim evening" Scot- 
tish skies ; Scottish is his thunder of cloud and 
cataract ; his " vapours, and snows, and storms" 
are Scottish ; and, strange as the assertion 
would have sounded in the ears of Samuel 
Johnson, Scottish are his woods, their sugh, 
and their roar; nor less their stillness, more 
awful amidst the vast multitude of steady 
stems, than when all the sullen pine-tops are 
swinging to the hurricane. A dread love of 
his native land was in his heart when he cried 
in the solitude — 

" Hail, kindred glooms ! congenial horrors hail !" 
The genius of Hoxe was national — and so, 
too, was the subject of his justly famous Tra- 
gedy of Douglas. He had studied the old Bal- 
lads ; their simplicities were sweet to him as 
wall-flowers on ruins. On the story of Gill 
Morice, who was an Earl's son, he founded the 
Tragedy, which surely no Scottish eyes ever 
witnessed without tears. Are not these most 
Scottish lines 1 — 

"Ye woods and wilds, whose melancholy gloom 
Accords with my soul's sadness !" 

And these even more so — 

"Red came the river down, and loud and oft 
The angry Spirit of the water shriek'd!" 

The Scottish Tragedian in an evil hour crossed 
the Tweed, riding on horseback all the way to 
London. His genius got Anglified, took aeon- 
sumption, and perished in the prime of life. 
But nearly half a century afterwards, on see- 
ing the Siddons in Lady Randolph, and hearing 
her low, deep, wild, wo-begone voice exclaim, 
" My beautiful ! my brave!" "the aged harp- 
er's soul awoke," and his dim eyes were again 
lighted up for a moment with the fires of ge- 
nius — say rather for a moment bedewed with 
the tears of sensibility re-awakened from decay 
and dotage. 

The genius of Beattie was national, and so 
was the subject of his charming song — The 
Minstrel. For what is its design 1 He tells us, 
v trace the progress of a poetical genius, born 



in a rude age, from the first dawning of reason 
and fancy, till that period at which he may be 
supposed capable of appearing in the world as 
a Scottish Minstrel; that is, as an itinerant 
poet and musician — a character which, accord- 
ing to the notions of our forefathers, was not 
only respectable, but sacred. 
"There lived in Gothic days, as legends tell, 
A shepherd swain, a man of low degree; 
Whose sires perchance in Fairyland might dwell, 

Sicilian groves and vales of Arcady ; 
Cut he, I ween, was of the North Countrie ; 

A nation famed for song and beauty's charms; 
Zealous, yet modest ; innocent, though free ; 
Patient of toil, serene amid alarms ; 
Inflexible in faith, invincible in arms. 
"The shepherd swain, of whom I mention made, 
On Scotia's mountains fed his little flock ; 
The sickle, scythe, or plough he never sway'd ; 

An honest heart was almost all his stock; 
His drink the living waters from the rock ; 

The milky dams supplied his board, and lent i 
Their kindly fleece to baffle winter's shock ; 
And he, though oft with dust and sweat besprent, 
Did guide and guard their wanderings, wheresoe'er 
they went." 

Lid patriotism ever inspire genius with senti- 
ment more Scottish than that? Did imagina- 
tion ever create scenery more Scottish, Man- 
ners, Morals, Life 1 
"Lo! where the stripling wrapt in wonder roves 
Beneath the precipice o'erhung with pine ; 
And sees, on high, amidst th' encircling groves, 
From cliff to cliff the foaming torrents shine; 
While waters, woods, and winds, in concert join, 
And echo swells the chorus to the skies." 

Beattie chants there like a man who had been 
at the Linn of Dee. He wore a wig, it is true ; 
but at times, when the fit was on him, he wrote 
like the unshorn Apollo. 

The genius of Grahame was national, and 
so too was the subject of his first and best poem 
—The Sabbath. 

" How still the morning of the hallow'd day !" 
is a line that could have been uttered only by 
a holy Scottish heart. For we alone know 
what is indeed Sabbath silence — an earnest of 
everlasting rest. To our hearts, the very birds 
of Scotland sing holily on that day. A sacred 
smile is on the dewy flowers. The lilies look 
Avhiter in their loveliness ; the blush-rose red 
dens in the sun with a diviner dye; and with 
a more celestial scent the hoary hawthorn 
sweetens the wilderness. Sorely disturbed of 
yore, over the glens and hills of Scotland, was 
the Day of Peace ! 

" Oh, the great goodness of the Saints of Old!" 
the Covenanters. Listen to the Sabbath bard — 

" With them each day was holy ; but that morn 

On which the angel said, ' See where the Lord 

Was laid,' joyous arose ; to die that day 

Was bliss. Long ere the dawn by devious ways, 

O'er hills, through woods, o'er dreary wastes, they 

sought 
The upland muirs where rivers, there but brooks, 
Dispart to different seas. Fast by such brooks 
A little glen is sometimes scoop'd, a plat 
With greensward gay. and flowers that strangers seem" 
Amid the heathery wild, that all around 
Fatigues the eye : in solitudes like these 
Thy persecuted children, Scotia, foil'd 
A tyrant's and a bigot's bloody laws. 
There, leaning on his spear, (one of the array 
Whose gleam, in former days, had scathed the lose 
On England's banner, and had powerless struck 
The infatuate monarch, and his wavering hostl) 
The lyart veteran heard the word of God" 
By Cameron thunder'd, or by Renwick pour'd 
In gentle stream : then rose the song, the loud 
Acclaim of praise. The wheeling plover ceased 
Her plaint ; the solitary place was glad ; 
And ou the distant cairn the watcher's ear 



AN HOUR'S TALK ABOUT POETRY. 



89 



Caught doubtfully at times the breeze-borne note. 
But years more gloomy follow'd ; and no more 
The assembled people dared, in face of day, 
To worship God, or even at the dead 
Of night, save when the wintry storm raved fierce, 
And thunder-peals compelled the men of blood 
To couch within their dens ; then dauntlessly 
The scatter'd few would meet, in some deep dell 
By rocks o'ercanopied, to hear the voice, 
Their faithful pastor's voice. He by the gleam 
Of sheeted lightning oped the sacred book, 
And words of comfort spake ; over their souls 
His accents soothing came, as to her young 
The heathfowl's plumes, when, at the close of eve, 
She gathers in, mournful, her brood dispersed 
By murderous sport, and o'er the remnant spreads 
Fondly her wings ; close nestling 'neath her breast 
They cherished cower amid the purple bloom." 

Not a few other sweet singers or strong, na- 
tive to this Dook of our isle, might we now in 
these humble pages lovingly commemorate; and 
"four shall we mention, dearer than the rest," 
for sake of that virtue, among many virtues, 
which we have been lauding all along, their na- 
tionality; — These are Aird and Motherwell, 
(of whom another hour,) Moir and Pollok. 

Of Moir, our own " delightful Delta," as we 
love to call him — and the epithet now by right 
appertains to his name — we shall now say 
simply this, that he has produced many origi- 
nal pieces which will possess a permanent 
place in the poetry of Scotland. Delicacy and 
grace characterize his happiest compositions ; 
some of them are beautiful in a cheerful spirit 
that has only to look on nature to be happy; 
and others breathe the simplest and purest 
pathos. His scenery, whether sea-coast or 
inland, is always truly Scottish ; and at times 
his pen drops touches of light on minute ob- 
jects, that till then had slumbered in the shade, 
but now " shine well where they stand" or lie, 
as component and characteristic parts of our 
lowland landscapes. Let others labour away 
at long poems, and for their pains get neglect 
or oblivion; Moir is seen as he is in many 
short ones, which the Scottish Muses may " not 
willingly let die." And that must be a pleasant 
thought when it touches the heart of the mild- 
est and most modest of men, as he sits by his 
family-fire, beside those most dear to him, 
after a day past in smoothing, by his skill, the 
bed and the brow of pain, in restoring sickness 
to health, in alleviating sufferings that cannot 
be cured, or in mitigating the pangs of death. 
Pollok had great original genius, strong in 
a sacred sense of religion. Such of his short 
compositions as we have seen, written in early 
youth, were but mere copies of verses, and 
gave little or no promise of power. But his 
soul was working in the green moorland soli- 
tudes round about his father's house, in the 
wild and beautiful parishes of Eaglesham and 
Mearns, separated by thee, Yearn! sweetest 
of pastoral streams, that murmur through the 
west, as under those broomy and birken banks 
and trees, where the gray-linties sing, is formed 
the clear junction of the rills, issuing, the one 
from the hill-spring above the Black-waterfall, 
and the other from the Brother-loch. The 
poet in prime of youth (he died in his twenty- 
seventh year) embarked on a high and adven- 
turous emprise, and voyaged the illimitable 
Deep. His spirit expanded its wings, and in 
a holy pride felt them to be broad, as they 
hovered over the dark abyss. The "Course 
12 



of Time," for so young a man, was a vast 
achievement. The book he loved best was 
the Bible, and his style is often scriptural. 
Of our poets, he had studied, we believe, but 
Milton, Young, and Byron. He had much to 
learn in composition ; and, had he lived, he 
would have locked almost with humiliation 
on much that is at present eulogized by his 
devoted admirers. But the soul of poetry is 
there, though often dimly developed, and many 
passages there are, and long ones too, that 
heave, and hurry, and glow along in a divine 
enthusiasm. 

" His ears he closed, to listen to the strains 
That Sion's bards did consecrate of old, 
And fix'd his Pindus upon Lebanon." 

Let us fly again to England, and leaving for 
another hour Shelley and Hunt and Keates, 
and Croly and Milman and Heber, and Ster- 
ling and Milnes and Tennyson, with some 
younger aspirants of our own day ; and Gray, 
Collins, and Goldsmith, and lesser stars of that 
constellation, let us alight on the verge of that 
famous era when the throne was occupied by 
Dryden, and then by Pope — searching still for 
a Great Poem. Did either of them ever write 
one ? No — never. Sir Walter says finely of 
glorious John, 

" And Dryden in immortal strain, 
Had raised the Table Round again, 
But that a ribald King and Court 
Bade him play on to make them sport, 
The world defrauded of the high design, 
Profaned the God-given strength, and marr'd the lofty 
line." 

But why, we ask, did Dryden suffer a ribald 
king and court to debase and degrade him, and 
strangle his immortal strain 1 Because he 
was poor. But could he not have died of cold, 
thirst, and hunger — of starvation? Have not 
millions of men and women done so, rather 
than sacrifice their conscience ! And shall we 
grant to a great poet that indulgence which 
many an humble hind would have flung with 
scorn in our teeth, and rather than hav* 
availed himself of it, faced the fagot, or the 
halter, or the stake set within the sea-flood 1 
But it is satisfactory to know that Dryden, 
though still glorious John, was not a Great 
Poet. He was seldom visited by the pathetic 
or the sublime — else had his genius held fast 
its integrity — been ribald to no ribald — and 
indignantly kicked to the devil both court and 
king. But what a master of reasoning in 
verse ! And of verse what a volume of 
fire ! "The long-resounding march and ener- 
gy divine." Pope, again, with the common 
frailties of humanity, was an ethereal creature 
— and played on his own harp with finest taste, 
and wonderful execution. We doubt, indeed, 
if such a finished style has ever been heard 
since from any one of the King Apollo's mu- 
sicians. His versification may be monoto- 
nous, but without a sweet and potent charm 
only to ears of leather. That his poetry 
has no passion is the creed of critics "of 
Cambyses' vein ;" Heloise and the Unfortunate 
Lady have made the world's heart to throb. 
As for Imagination, we shall continue till such 
time as that faculty has been distinguished 
from Fancy, to see it shining in the Rape of 
the Lock, with a lambent lustre ; if high intel- 
h2 



90 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



lect be not dominant in his Epistles and his 
Essay on Man, you will look for it in vain in 
the nineteenth century; all other Satires seem 
complimentary to their victims when read after 
the Dunciad — and could a man, whose heart 
was not heroic, have given us another Iliad, 
which, all unlike as it is to the Greek, may be 
read with transport, even after Homer's 1 

We have not yet, it would seem, found the 
objects of our search — a Great Poem. Let us 
extend our quest into the Elizabethan age. We 
are at once sucked into the theatre. With the 
whole drama of that age we are conversant 
and familiar; but whether we understand it or 
not, is another question. It aspires to give 
representations of Human Life in all its in- 
finite varieties, and inconsistencies, and con- 
flicts, and turmoils produced by the Passions. 
Time and space are not suffered to interpose 
their unities between the Poet and his vast 
design, who, provided he can satisfy the spec- 
tators by the pageant of their own passions 
moving across the stage, may exhibit there 
whatever he wills from life, death, or the grave. 
'Tis a sublime conception — and sometimes 
has given rise to sublime performance; but 
has been crowned with full success in no hands 
but those of Shakspeare. Great as was the 
genius of many of the dramatists of that age, 
not one of them has produced a Great Tragedy. 
Great Tragedy indeed ! What! without harmo- 
ny or proportion in the plan — with all puzzling 
perplexities and inextricable entanglements in 
the plot, and with disgust and horror in the catas- 
trophe 1 As for the characters, male and female 
— saw ye ever such a set of swaggerers and ran- 
tipoles as they often are in one act — Methodist 
preachers and demure young women at a love- 
feast in another — absolute heroes and heroines 
of high calibre in a third — and so on, changing 
and shifting name and nature, according to the 
laws of the Romantic Drama forsooth— but in 
hideous violation of the laws of nature — till the 
curtain falls over a heap of bodies huddled to- 
gether, without regard to age or sex, as if they 
had been overtaken in'liquor! We admit that 
there is gross exaggeration in the picture ; but 
there is always truth in a tolerable caricature 
— and this is one of a tragedy of Webster, 
Ford, or Massinger. 

It is satisfactory to know that the good sense, 
and good feeling, and good taste of the people 
of England, will not submit to be belaboured 
by editors and critics into unqualified admira- 
tion of such enormities. The Old English 
Drama lies buried in the dust with all its trage- 
dies. Never more will they move across the 
stage. Scholars read them, and often with de- 
light, admiration, and wonder; for genius is a 
strange spirit, and has begotten strange children 
on the body of the Tragic Muse. In the closet 
it is pleasant to peruse the countenances, at 
once divine, human, and brutal, of the incom- 
prehensible monsters — to scan their forms, 
powerful though misshapen — to watch their 
movements, vigorous though distorted — and to 
hold up one's hands in amazement on hearing 
them not seldom discourse most excellent mu- 
sic. But we should shudder to see them on 
the stage enacting the parts of men and wo- 
men — and call for the manager. All has been 



I done for the least deformed of the tragedies of 
J the Old English Drama that humanity could 
do, enlightened by the Christian religion; but 
Nature has risen up to vindicate herself against 
such misrepresentations as they afford ; and 
sometimes finds it all she can do to stomach 
Shakspeare. 

But the monstrosities we have mentioned are 
not the worst to be found in the Old English 
Drama. Others there are that, till civilized 
Christendom fall back into barbarous Heathen- 
dom, must for ever be unendurable to human 
ears, whether long or short — we mean the ob- 
scenities. That sin is banished for ever from 
our literature. The poet who might dare to 
commit it, would be immediately hooted out of 
society, and sent to roost in barns among the 
owls. But the Old English Drama is stuffed 
with ineffable pollutions ; and full of passages 
that the street-walker would be ashamed to 
read in the stews. We have not seen that 
volume of the Family Dramatists which contains 
Massinger. But if made fit for female read- 
ing, his plays must be mutilated and mangled 
out of all likeness to the original wholes. 
To free them even from the grossest impuri- 
ties, without destroying their very life, is im- 
possible ; and it would be far better to make a 
selection of fine passages, after the manner of 
Lamb's Specimens — but with a severer eye — 
than to attempt in vain to preserve their cha- 
racter as plays, and at the same time to expunge 
all that is too disgusting, perhaps, to be danger- 
ous to boys and virgins. Full-grown men may 
read what they choose — perhaps without suf- 
fering from it ; but the modesty of the young 
clear eye must not be profaned — and we can- 
not, for our own part, imagine a Family Old 
English Dramatist. 

And here again bursts upon us the glory of 
the Greek Drama. The Athenians were as 
wicked, as licentious, as polluted, and much 
more so, we hope, than ever were the English ; 
but they debased not with their gross vices 
their glorious tragedies. Nature in her higher 
moods alone, and most majestic aspects, trod 
their stage. Buffoons, and ribalds, and zanies, 
and "rude indecent clowns," were confined to 
comedies ; and even there they too were ideal- 
ized, and resembled not the obscene samples 
that so often sicken us in the midst of "the act- 
ing of a dreadful thing" in our old theatre. 
They knew that "with other ministrations, thou, 
Nature!" teachest thy handmaid Art to 
soothe the souls of thy congregated children — 
congregated to behold her noble goings-on, and 
to rise up and depart elevated by the transcen- 
dent pageant. The Tragic muse was in those 
days a Priestess — tragedies were religious 
ceremonies ; for all the ancestral stories they 
celebrated were under consecration — the spirit 
of the ages of heroes and demigods descended 
over the vast amphitheatre ; and thus were 
iEschylus, and Sophocles, and Euripides, the 
guardians of the national character, which we 
all know, was, in spite of all it suffered under, 
for ever passionately enamoured of all the 
forms of greatness. 

Forgive us — spirit of Shakspeare ! that 
seem'st to animate that high-brow'd bust — if 
indeed we have offered any show of irreve- 



INCH-CRUIN. 



91 



rence to thy name and nature ; for now, in the 
noiselessness of midnight, to our awed but 
loving hearts do both appear divine ! Forgive 
us — we beseech thee — that on going to bed — 
which we are just about to do — we may be able 
to compose ourselves to sleep — and dream of 
Miranda and Imogen, and Desdemona and Cor- 
delia. Father revered of that holy family ! by 
the strong light in the eyes of Innocence we 
beseech thee to forgive us ! — Ha ! what old ghost 
art thou — clothed in the weeds of more than 
mortal misery — mad, mad, mad — come and 
gone — was it Lear? 

We have found then, it seems — at last — the 
object of our search — a Great Poem — ay — four 
Great Poems — Lear — Hamlet — Othello — Mac- 
beth. And was the revealer of those high 
mysteries in his youth a deer-stealer in the 
parks of Warwickshire, a linkboy in London 
streets ? And died he before his grand climac- 
teric in a dimmish sort of a middle-sized tene- 
ment in Stratford-on-Avon, of a surfeit from 
an over-dose of home-brewed humming ale ? 
Such is the tradition. 

Had we a daughter — an only daughter — we 
should wish her to be like 

"Heavenly Una with her milk-white lamb." 
In that one line has Wordsworth done an un- 
appreciable service to Spenser. He has im- 
proved upon a picture in the Fairy Queen — 
making "the beauty still more beauteous," by 
a single touch of a pencil dipped in moonlight, 
or in sunlight tender as Luna's smiles. Through 
Spenser's many nine-lined stanzas the lovely 
lady glides along her own world — and our eyes 
follow in delight the sinless wanderer. In 
Wordsworth's one single celestial line we be- 
hold her neither in time nor space — an im- 
mortal omnipresent idea at one gaze occupying 
the soul. 

And is not the Fairy Queen a Great Poem? 
Like the Excursion, it is at all events a long 
one — " slow to begin, and never ending." That 



fire was a fortunate one in which so many 
books of it were burnt. If no such fortunate 
fire ever took place, then let us trust that the 
moths drillingly devoured the manuscript — and 
that 'tis all safe. Purgatorial pains — unless 
indeed they should prove eternal — are insuffi- 
cient punishment for the impious man who 
invented Allegory. If you have got any thing 
to say, sir, out with it — in one or other of the 
many forms of speech employed naturally by 
creatures to whom God has given the gift of 
"discourse of reason." But beware of mis- 
spending your life in perversely attempting to 
make shadow substance, and substance shadow. 
Wonderful analogies there are among all 
created things, material and immaterial — and 
millions so fine that Poets alone discern them— 
and sometimes succeed in showing them in 
words. Most spiritual region of poetry — and 
to be visited at rare times and seasons — nor all 
life-long ought bard there to abide. For a while 
let the veil of Allegory be drawn before the 
face of Truth, that the light of its beauty may 
shine through it with a softened charm — dim 
and drear — like the moon gradually obscuring 
in its own halo on a dewy night. Such air- 
woven veil of Allegory is no human invention. 
The soul brought it with her when 

"Trailing clouds of glory she did come 
From heaven, which is her home." 

Sometimes, now and then, in moods strange 
and high — obey the bidding of the soul — and 
allegorize ; but live not all life-long in an Alle- 
gory — even as Spenser did — Spenser the di- 
vine ; for with all his heavenly genius — and 
brighter visions never met mortal eyes than 
his — what is he but a "dreamer among men," 
and what may save that wondrous poem from 
the doom of oblivion ? 

To this conclusion must we come at last — 
that in the English language there is but 
one Great Poem. What! Not Lear, Hamlet, 
Othello, Macbeth ? Paradise Lost. 



INCH-CRUIN 



Oh! for the plumes and pinions of the poised 
Eagle, that we might now hang over Loch Lo- 
mond and all her isles ! From what point of the 
compass would we come on our rushing vans ? 
Up from Leven-banks, or down from Glenfal- 
loch, or over the hill of Luss, or down to Row- 
ardennan ; and then up and away, as the chance 
currents in the sky might lead, with the Glory 
of Scotland, blue, bright, and breaking into 
foam, thousands on thousands of feet below, 
with every Island distinct in the peculiar beauty 
of its own youthful or ancient woods ? For 
remember, that with the eagle's wing we must 
also have the eagle's eye ; and all the while 
our own soul to look with such lens and such 
iris, and with its own endless visions to invest 
the pinnacles of all the far-down ruins of church 



or castle, encompassed with the umbrage of 
undying oaks. 

We should as soon think of penning a critique 
on Milton's Paradise Lost as on Loch Lomond. 
People there are in the world, doubtless, who 
think them both too long; but to our minds, 
neither the one nor the other exceeds the due 
measure by a leaf or a league. You may, if it 
so pleaseth you, think it, in a mist, a Mediterra- 
nean sea. For then you behold many miles of 
tumbling waves, with no land beyond ; and 
were a ship to rise up in full sail, she would 
seem voyaging on to some distant shore. Or 
you may look on it as a great arm only of the 
ocean, stretched out into the mountainous main- 
land. Or say, rather, some river of the first 
order, that shows to the sun Islands never 



92 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



ceasing to adorn his course for a thousand 
leagues, in another day about to be lost in the 
dominion of the sea. Or rather look on it as 
it is, as Loch Lomond, the Loch of a hundred 
Isles — of shores laden with all kinds of beauty, 
throughout the infinite succession of bays and 
harbours — huts and houses sprinkled over the 
6ides of its green hills, that ever and anon send 
up a wider smoke from villages clustering 
round the church-tower beneath the wooded 
rocks — halls half-hidden in groves, for centu- 
ries the residence of families proud of their 
Gaelic blood — forests that, however wide be the 
fall beneath the axe when their hour is come, 
yet, far as the eye can reach, go circling round 
the mountain's base, inhabited by the roe and 
the red-deer; — but we have got into a sentence 
that threatens to be without end — a dim, dreary, 
sentence, in the middle of which the very writer 
himself gets afraid of ghosts, and fervently 
prays for the period when he shall be again 
chatting with the reader on a shady seat, under 
his own paragraph and his own pear-tree. 

Oh ! for our admirable friend Mr. Smith of 
Jordanhill's matchless cutter, to glide through 
among the glittering archipelago ! But we 
must be contented with a somewhat clumsy 
four-oared barge, wide and deep enough for a 
cattle ferry-boat. This morning's sunrise found 
us at the mouth of the Goblin's Cave on Loch 
Katrine, and among Lomon'd's lovely isles shall 
sunset leave us among the last glimmer of the 
softened gold. To which of all those lovely 
isles shall we drift before the wind on the small 
heaving and breaking waves 1 To Inch-Murrin, 
where the fallow-deer repose — or to the yew- 
shaded Irich-Caillach, the cemetery of Clan- 
Alpin — the Holy Isle of Nuns? One hushing 
afternoon hour may yet be ours on the waters — 
another of the slowly-walking twilight — that 
time which the gazing spirit is too wrapt to 
measure, while "sinks the Day-star in the 
ocean's bed" — and so on to midnight, the reign 
of silence and shadow, the resplendent Diana 
with her hair-halo, and all her star-nymphs, 
rejoicing round their Queen. Let the names 
of all objects be forgotten — and imagination 
roam over the works of nature, as if they lay 
in their primeval majesty, without one trace of 
man's dominion. Slow-sailing Heron, that 
cloud-like seekest thy nest on yonder lofty mass 
of pines — to us thy flight seems the very symbol 
of a long lone life of peace. As thou foldest 
thy wide wings on the topmost bough, beneath 
thee tower the unregarded Ruins, where many 
generations sleep. Onwards thou floatest like 
a dream, nor changest thy gradually descend- 
ing course for the Eagle, that, far above thy 
line of travel, comes rushing unwearied from 
his prey in distant Isles of the sea. The Os- 
prey! off — off — to Inch-Loning — or the dark 
cliffs of Glenfalloch, many leagues away, which 
he will reach almost like a thought ! ("lose 
your eyes but for a moment — and when you 
look again, where is the Cloud-Cleaver now 1 
Gone in the sunshine, and haply seated in his 
eyrie on Ben-Lomond's head. 

But. amidst all this splendour and magnifi- 
cence, our eyes are drawn against our will, 
and by a sort of sad fascination which we 
cannot resist, along the glittering and dancing 



waves, towards the melancholy shores of Inch- 
Cruin, the Island of the Afflicted. Beautifu. 
is it by nature, with its bays, and fields, and 
woods, as any isle that sees its shadow in the 
deeps ; but human sorrows have steeped it in 
eternal gloom, and terribly is it haunted to our 
imagination. Here no woodman's hut peeps 
from the glade — here are not seen the branch- 
ing antlers of the deer moving among the 
boughs that stir not — no place of peace is this 
where the world-wearied hermit sits penitent 
in his cell, and prepares his soul for Heaven. 
Its inhabitants are a woful people, and all its 
various charms are hidden from their eyes, or 
seen in ghastly transfiguration ; for here, be- 
neath the yew-tree's shade, sit moping, or 
roam about with rueful lamentation, the soul- 
distracted and the insane ! Ay — these sweet 
and pleasant murmurs break round a Lunatic 
Asylum ! And the shadows that are now and 
then seen among the umbrage are laughing 
or weeping in the eclipse of reason, and may 
never know again aught of the real character 
of this world, to which, exiled as they are 
from it, they are yet bound by the ties of a 
common nature that, though sorely deranged, 
are not wholly broken, and still separate them 
by an awful depth of darkness from the beasts 
that perish. 

Thither, love, yielding reluctantly at last to 
despair, has consented that the object on which 
all its wise solicitudes had for years been un- 
availably bestowed both night and day, should 
be rowed over, perhaps at midnight, and when 
asleep, and left there with beings like itself, 
all dimly conscious of their doom. To many 
such the change may often bring little or no 
heed — for outward things may have ceased to 
impress, and they may be living in their own 
rueful world, different from all that we hear or 
behold. To some it may seem that they have 
been spirited away to another state of exist- 
ence — beautiful, indeed, and fair^to see, with 
all those lovely trees and shadows of trees; 
but still a miserable, a most miserable place, 
without one face they ever saw before, and. 
haunted by glaring eyes that shoot forth fear, 
suspicion, and hatred. Others, again, there 
are, who know well the misty head of Ben- 
Lomond, which, with joyful pleasure-parties 
set free from the city, they had in other years 
exultingly scaled, and looked down, perhaps, 
in a solemn pause of their youthful ecstasy, 
on the far-off and melancholy Inch-Cruin ! 
Thankful are they for such a haven at last — 
for they are remote from the disturbance of the 
incomprehensible life that bewildered them, 
and from the pity of familiar faces that was 
more than could be borne. 

So let us float upon our oars behind the 
shadow of this rock, nor approach nearer the 
sacred retreat of misery. Let us not gaze too 
intently into the glades, for we might see some 
figure there who wished to be seen nevermore, 
and recognise in the hurrying shadow the 
living remains of a friend. How profound the 
hush ! No sigh — no groan — no shriek — no 
voice — no tossing of arms — no restless chaf- 
ing of feet! God in mercy has for a while 
calmed the congregation of the afflicted, and 
the Isle is overspread with a sweet Sabbath- 



INCH-CRUIN. 



silence. What medicine for them like the 
breath of heaven — the dew — the sunshine — 
and the murmur of the wave ! Nature her- 
self is their kind physician, and sometimes 
not unfrequently brings them by her holy skill 
back to the world of clear intelligence and 
serene affection. They listen calmly to the 
blessed sound of the oar that brings a visit of 
friends — to sojourn with them for a day — or 
to take them away to another retirement, 
where they, in restored reason, may sit around 
the board, nor'fear to meditate during the mid- 
night Vatches on the dream, which, although 
dispelled, may in all its ghastliness return. 
There was a glorious burst of sunshine ! 
And of all the Lomond Isles, what one rises 
up in the sudden illumination so bright as 
Inch-Cruin 1 

Methinks we see sitting in his narrow and 
low-roofed cell, careless of food, dress, sleep, 
or shelter alike, him who in the opulent mart 
of commerce was one of the most opulent, and 
devoted heart and soul to show and magnifi- 
cence. His house was like a palace with its 
pictured and mirror'd walls, and the nights 
wore away to dance, revelry, and song. 4 For- 
tune poured riches at his feet, which he had 
only to gather up; and every enterprise in 
which he took part, prospered beyond the 
reach of imagination. But all at once — as 
if lightning had struck the dome of his pros- 
perity, and earthquake let down its founda- 
tions, it sank, crackled, and disappeared — and 
the man of a million was a houseless, infa- 
mous, and bankrupt beggar. In one day his 
proud face changed into the ghastly smiling 
of an idiot — he dragged his limbs in paralysis 
— and slavered out unmeaning words foreign 
to all the pursuits in which his active intellect 
had for many years been plunged. All his 
relations — to whom it was known he had ne- 
ver shown kindness — were persons in humble 
condition. Ruined creditors we do not expect 
to be very pitiful, and people asked what was 
to become of him till he died. A poor crea- 
ture, whom he had seduced and abandoned to 
want, but who had succeeded to a small pro- 
perty on the death of a distant relation, re- 
membered her first, her only love, when all 
the rest of the world were willing to forget 
him; and she it was who had him conveyed 
thither, herself sitting in the boat with her 
arm round the unconscious idiot, who now 
vegetates on the charity of her whom he be- 
trayed. For fifteen years he has continued to 
exist in the same state, and you may pro- 
nounce his name on the busy Exchange of 
the city where he flourished and fell, and 
haply the person you speak to shall have en- 
tirely forgotten it. 

The evils genius sometimes brings to its 
possessor have often been said and sung, per- 
haps with exaggerations, but not always with- 
out truth. It is found frequently apart from 
prudence and principle; and in a world con- 
stituted like ours, how can it fail to reap a 
harvest of misery or death 1 A fine genius, 
and even a high, had been bestowed on One 
who is now an inmate of that cottage-cell, 
peering between these two rocks. At College, 
he outstripped all his compeers by powers 



equally versatile and profound — the first both 
in intellect and in imagination. He was a 
poor man's son — the only son of a working 
carpenter — and his father intended him for the 
church. But the youth soon felt that to him 
the trammels of a strict faith would be un- 
bearable, and he lived on from year to year, 
uncertain what profession to choose. Mean- 
while his friends, all inferior to him in talents 
and acquirements, followed the plain, open, 
and beaten path, that leads sooner or later to 
respectability and independence. He was left 
alone in his genius, useless, although admired 
— while those who had looked in high hopes 
on his early career, began to have their fears 
that they might never be realized. His first 
attempts to attract the notice of the public, 
although not absolute failures — for some of his 
compositions, both in prose and verse, were 
indeed beautiful — were not triumphantly suc- 
cessful, and he began to taste the bitterness of 
disappointed ambition. His wit and colloquial 
talents carried him into the society of the dis- 
sipated and the licentious ; and before he was 
aware of the fact, he had got the character of 
all others the most humiliating — that of a man 
who knew not how to estimate his own worth, 
nor to preserve it from pollution. He found 
himself silently and gradually excluded from 
the higher circle which he had once adorned, 
and sunk inextricably into a lower grade of 
social life. His whole habits became loose 
and irregular; his studies were pursued but 
by fits and starts ; his knowledge, instead of 
keeping pace with that of the times, became 
clouded and obscure, and even diminished; 
his dress was meaner ; his manners hurried, 
and reckless, and wild, and ere long he became 
a slave to drunkenness, and then to every low 
and degrading vice. 

His father died, it was said, of a broken heart 
— for to him his son had been all in all, and 
the unhappy youth felt that the death lay at his 
door. At last, shunned by most — tolerated but 
by a few for the sake of other times — domiciled 
in the haunts of infamy — loaded with a heap 
of paltry debts, and pursued by the hounds of 
the law, the fear of a prison drove him mad, 
and his whole mind was utterly and hopelessly 
overthrown. A few of the friends of his boy- 
hood raised a subscription in his behoof — and 
within the gloom of these woods he has been 
shrouded for many years, but not unvisited 
once or twice a summer "by some one, who 
knew, IovpJ, and admired him in the morning 
of that genius that long before its meridian 
brightness had been so fatally eclipsed. 

And can it be in cold and unimpassioned 
words like these that we thus speak of Thee 
and thy doom, thou Soul of fire, and once the 
brightest of the free, privileged by nature to 
walk along the mountain-ranges, and mix f Jieir 
spirits with the stars ! Can it be that all thy 
glorious aspirations, by thyself forgotten, have 
no dwelling-place in the' memory of one who 
loved thee so well, and had his deepest affection, 
so profoundly returned ! Thine was a heart 
once tremblingly alive to all the noblest and 
finest sympathies of our nature, and the hum- 
blest human sensibilities became beautiful 
when tinged by the light of thy imagination. 



94 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



Thy genius invested the most ordinary objects 
with a charm not their own ; and the vision it 
created thy lips were eloquent to disclose. 
What although thy poor old father died, be- 
cause by thy hand all his hopes were shivered, 
and for thy sake poverty stripped even the 
coverlet from his dying-bed — yet we feel as if 
some dreadful destiny, rather than thy own 
crime, blinded thee to his fast decay, and 
closed thine ears in deafness to his beseeching 
prayer. Oh ! charge not to creatures such as 
we all the fearful consequences of our mis- 
conduct and evil ways ! We break hearts we 
would die to heal — and hurry on towards the 
grave those whom to save we would leap into 
the devouring fire. Many wondered in their 
anger that thou couldst be so callous to the 
old man's grief — and couldst walk tearless at 
his coffin. The very night of the day he was 
buried thou wert among thy wild companions, 
in a house of infamy, close to the wall of the 
churchyard. Was not that enough to tell us 
all that disease was in thy brain, and that 
reason, struggling with insanity, had changed 
sorrow to despair. But perfect forgiveness — 
forgiveness made tender by profoundest pity — 
was finally extended to thee by all thy friends 
— frail and erring like thyself in many things, 
although not so fatally misled and lost, because 
in the mystery of Providence not so irresistibly 
tried. It seemed as if thou hadst offended the 
Guardian Genius, who, according to the old 
philosophy which thou knewest so well, is 
given to every human being at his birth ; and 
that then the angel left thy side, and Satan 
strove to drag thee to perdition. And hath 
any peace come to thee — a youth no more — 
but in what might have been the prime of man- 
hood, bent down, they say, to the ground, with 
a head all floating with silver hairs — hath any 
peace come to thy distracted soul in these 
woods, over which there now seems again to 
brood a holy horror 1 — Yes — thy fine dark eyes 
are not wholly without intelligence as they 
look on the sun, moon, and stars ; although all 
their courses seem now confused to thy imagi- 
nation, once regular and ordered in their mag- 
nificence before that intellect which science 
claimed as her own. The harmonies of nature 
are not all lost on thy ear, poured forth through- 
out all seasons, over the world of sound and 
sight. Glimpses of beauty startle thee as thou 
wanderest along the shores of thy prison-isle ; 
and that fine poetical genius, not yet ex- 
tinguished altogether, although faiu: and flick- 
ering, gives vent to something like snatches 
of songs, and broken elegies, that seem to 
wail over the ruins of thy own soul ! Such 
peace as ever visits them afflicted as thou art, 
be with thee in cell or on shore ; nor lost to 
Heaven will be the wild moanings of — to us — 
thy unintelligible prayers ! 

But hark to the spirit-stirring voice of the 
bugle scaling the sky, and leaping up and down 
in echoes among the distant mountains ! Such 
a strain animates the voltigeur, skirmishing in 
front of the line of battle, or sending flashes of 
sudden death from the woods. Alas ! for him 
who now deludes his yet high heart with a few 
notes of the music that so often was accompa- 
nied by his sword waving on to glory. Un ap- 



palled was he ever in the whizzing and hissing 
fire — nor did his bold broad breast ever shrink 
from the bayonet, that with the finished fencer's 
art he has often turned aside when red with 
death. In many of the pitched battles of the 
Spanish campaigns his plume was conspicuous 
over the dark green lines, that, breaking asun- 
der in fragments like those of the flowing sea, 
only to re-advance over the bloody fields, 
cleared the ground that was to be debated be- 
tween the great armaments. Yet in all such 
desperate service he never received one single 
wound. But on a mid-day march, as he was 
gaily singing a love-song, the sun smote him 
to the very brain, and from that moment his 
right hand grasped the sword no more. 

Not on the face of all the earth — or of all the 
sea — is there a spot of profounder peace than 
that isle that has long been his abode. But to 
him all the scene is alive with the pomp of 
war. Every far-off precipice is a fort, that has 
its own Spanish name — and the cloud above 
seems to his eyes the tricolor, or the flag of his 
own victorious country. War, that dread game 
that nations play at, is now to the poor insane 
soldier a mere child's pastime, from which 
sometimes he himself will turn with a sigh or 
a smile. For sense assails him in his delirium, 
for a moment and no more ; and he feels that 
he is far away, and for ever, from all his com- 
panions in glory, in an asylum that must be 
left but for the grave ! Perhaps in such mo- 
ments he may have remembered the night, 
when at Badajos he led the forlorn hope ; but 
even forlorn hope now hath he none, and he 
sinks away back into his delusions, at which 
even his brother sufferers smile — so foolish 
does the restless campaigner seem to these men 
of peace! 

Lo ! a white ghost-like figure, slowly issuing 
from the trees, and sitting herself down on a 
stone, with face fixed on the waters ! Now 
she is so perfectly still, that had we not seen 
her motion thither, she and the rock would 
have seemed but one ! Somewhat fantastically 
dressed, even in her apparent despair. Were 
we close to her, we should see a face yet beau- 
tiful, beneath hair white as snow. Her voice 
too, but seldom heard, is still sweet and low ; 
and sometimes, when all are asleep, or at least 
silent, she begins at midnight to sing ! She yet 
touches the guitar — an instrument in fashion 
in Scotland when she led the fashion — with 
infinite grace and delicac)^ — and the songs she 
loves best are those in a foreign tongue. For 
more than thirty years hath the unfortunate 
lady come to the water's edge daily, and hour 
after hour continue to sit motionless on that 
self-same stone, looking down into the loch. 
Her story is now almost like a dim tradition 
from other ages, and the history of those who 
come here often fades away into nothing. 
Everywhere else they are forgotten — here 
there are none who can remember. Who once 
so beautiful as the "Fair Portuguese 1 ?" It 
was said at that time that she was a Nun — but 
the sacred veil was drawn aside by the hand 
of love, and she came to Scotland with her de- 
liverer ! Yes, her deliverer ! He delivered her 
from the gloom — often the peaceful gloom that 
hovers round the altar of Superstition — and 



A DAY AT WINDERMERE. 



95 



after a few years of love and life and joy — she 
sat where you now see her sitting, and the 
world she had adorned moved on in brightness 
and in music as before ! Since there has to her 
been so much suffering — was there on her part 
no sin] No — all believed her to be guiltless, 
except one, whose jealousy would have seen 
falsehood lurking in an angel's eyes; but she 
was utterly deserted ; and being in a strange 
country, worse than an orphan, her mind gave. 
way ; for say not — oh say not — that innocence 
can always stand against shame and despair! 
The hymns she sings at midnight are hymns to 
the Virgin ; but all her songs are songs about 
love and chivalry, and knights that went cru- 
sading to the Holy Land. He who brought her 
from another sanctuary into the one now before 
us, has been dead many years. He perished 
in shipwreck — and 'tis thought that she sits 
there gazing down into the loch, as on the 
place where he sank or was buried; for when 
told that he was drowned, she shrieked, and 
made the sign of the cross — and since that long- 
ago day that stone has in all weathers been 
her constant seat. 

Away we go westwards — like fire-worship- 
pers devoutly gazing on the setting sun. And 
another isle seems to shoot across our path, 
separated suddenly, as if by magic, from the 
mainland. How beautiful, with its many cres- 
cents, the low-lying shores, carrying here and 
there a single tree quite into the water, and 
with verdant shallows guarding the lonely se- 
clusion even from the keel of canoe ! Round 
and round we row, but not a single landing 
place. Shall we take each of us a fair burden 
in his arms, and bear it to that knoll, whisper- 
ing and quivering through the twilight with a 
few birches whose stems glitter like silver pil- 
lars in the shade ] No — let us not disturb the 
silent people, now donning their green array 
for nightly revelries. It is the " Isle of Fai- 
ries," and on that knoll hath the fishermen 
often seen their Queen sitting on a throne, sur- 
rounded by myriads of creatures no taller than 
hare-bells ; one splash of the oar — and all is 
vanished. There, it is said, lives among the 
Folk of Peace, the fair child who, many years 
ago, disappeared from her parents' shieling at 



Inversnayde, and whom they vainly wept over 
as dead. One evening she had floated away 
by herself in a small boat — while her parents 
heard, without fear, the clang — dullerand dull- 
er — of the oars, no longer visible in the distant 
moonshine. In an hour the returning vessel 
touched the beach — but no child was to be 
seen — and they listened in vain for the music 
of the happy creature's songs. For weeks the 
loch rolled and roared like the sea — nor was 
the body found any where lying on the shore. 
Long, long afterwards, some little white bones 
were interred in Christian burial, for the pa- 
rents believed them to be the remains of their 
child — all that had been left by the bill of the 
raven. But not so thought many dwellers 
along the mountain-shores — for had not her 
very voice been often heard by the shepherds, 
when the unseen flight of Fairies sailed singing 
along up the solitary Glenfalloch, away over 
the moors of Tynedrum, and down to the sweet 
Dalmally, where the shadow of Cruachan 
darkens the old ruins of melancholy Kilchurn 1 
The lost child's parents died in their old age — 
but she, 'tis said, is unchanged in shape and 
features — the same fair thing she was the 
evening that she disappeared, only a shade of 
sadness is on her pale face, as if she were 
pining for the sound of human voices, and the 
gleam of the peat-fire of the shieling. Ever, 
when the Fairy-court is seen for a moment be- 
neath the glimpses of the moon, she is sitting 
by the side of the gracious Queen. Words of 
might there are, that if whispered at right sea- 
son, would yet recall her from the shadowy 
world, to which she has been spirited away; 
but small sentinels stand at their stations round 
the isle, and at nearing of human breath, a 
shrill warning is given from sedge and water- 
lilly, and like dew-drops melt away the phan- 
toms, while, mixed with peals of little laughter, 
overhead is heard the winnowing of wings. 
For the hollow of the earth, and the hollow of 
the air, is their Invisible Kingdom; and when 
they touch the herbage or flowers of this earth 
of ours, whose lonely places they love, then 
only are they revealed to human eyes — at 
all times else to our senses unexistent as 
dreams ! 



A DAY AT WINDERMERE. 



Old and gouty, we are confined to our chair; 
and occasionally, during an hour of rainless 
sunshine, are wheeled by female hands along 
the gravel-walks of our Policy, an unrepining 
and philosophical valetudinarian. 'Even the 
Crutch is laid up in ordinary, and is encircled 
with cobwebs. A monstrous spider has there 
set up his rest ; and our still study ever and 
anon hearkens to the shrill buzz of some poor 
fly expiring between those formidable forceps 
— just as so many human ephemerals have 
breathed their last beneath the bite of his in- 



dulgent master. 'Tis pleasure to look at Do- 
mitian — so we love to call him — sallying from 
the centre against a wearied wasp, lying, like 
a silk worm, circumvoluted in the inextricable 
toils, and then seizing the sinner by the nape 
of the neck, like Christopher with a Cockney, 
to see the emperor haul him away into tho 
charnel-house. But we have often less savage 
recreations — such as watching our bee-hives 
when about to send forth colcnies — feeding our 
pigeons, a purple people that dazzle the daylight 
— gathering roses as they choke our smal 



96 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



chariot-wheels with their golden orbs — eating 
grapes out of vine-leaf-draperied baskets, 

beautifying beneath the gentle fingers of the 
Gentle into fair)' network graceful as the 
samer — drinking elder-flower frontiniac from 
invisible glasses, so transparent in its yellow- 
ness seems the liquid radiance — at one mo- 
ment eyeing a page of Paradise Lost, and at 
another of Paradise. Regained; for what else 
is the face of her who often visiteth our Eden, 
and whose coming and whose going is ever 
like a heavenly dream. Then laying back 
our head upon the cushion of our triumphal 
car, and with half-shut eyes, subsiding slowly 
into haunted sleep or slumber, with our fine 
features up to heaven, a saint-like image, 
such as Raphael loved to paint, or Flaxman 
to embue with the soul of stillness in the life- 
hushed marble. Such, dearest reader, are 
some of our pastimes — and so do we contrive 
to close bur ears to the sound of the scythe of 
Saturn, ceaselessly sweepingoverthe earth, and 
leaving, at every stride of the mower, a swathe 
more rueful than ever, after a night of shipwreck, 
did strew with ghastliness a lee sea-shore ! 

Thus do we make a virtue of necessity — 
and thus contentment wreathes with silk and 
velvet the prisoner's chains. Once were we — 
long, long ago — restless as a sunbeam on the 
restless wave — rapid as a river that seems en- 
raged with all impediments, but all the while 
in passionate love 

" Doth make sweet music with th' enamell'd stones,"— 

strong as a steed let loose from Arab's tent in 
the oasis to slake his thirst at the desert well — 
fierce in our harmless joy as a red-deer belling 
on the hills — tameless as the eagle sporting in 
the storm — gay as the " dolphin on a tropic 
sea" — "mad as young bulls" — and wild as a 
whole wilderness of adolescent lions. But now 
—alas! and alack-a-day ! the sunbeam is but 
a patch of sober verdure — the river is changed 
into a canal — the " desert-born" is foundered — 
the red-deer is slow as an old ram — the eagle 
has forsook his cliff and his clouds, and hops 
among the gooseberry bushes — the dolphin has 
degenerated into a land tortoise — without dan- 
ger now might a very child take the bull by the 
horns — and though something of a lion still, 
our roar is like that of the nightingale, " most 
musical, most melancholy" — and, as we attempt 
to shake our mane, your grandmother — fair pe- 
ruser — cannot choose but weep. 

It speaks folios in favour of our philanthropy, 
to know that, in our own imprisonment, we 
love to see all life free as air. Would that by 
a word of ours we could clothe all human 
shoulders with wings ! would that by a word 
of ours we could plume all human spirits 
with thoughts strong as the eagle's pinions, 
that they might winnow their way into the 
empyrean ! Tories ! Yes ! we are Tories. 
Our faith is in the Divine right of kings — but 
easy, my bovs, easy — all free men are kings, 
and they hold their empire from heaven. That 
is our political — philosophical — moral — reli- 
gious creed. In its spirit we have lived — 
and in its spirit we hope to die — not on the 
scaffold like Sidney — no — no — no — not by 
any manner of means Tike Sidney on the 



scaffold — but like ourselves, on a hair-mattres3 
above a feather-bed, our head decently sunk in 
three pillows and one bolster, and our frame 
stretched out unagitatedly beneath a white 
counterpane. But meanwhile— though almost 
as imlocomotive as the dead in body -there is 
perpetual motion in our minds. Sleep is one 
thing, and stagnation is another — as is well 
known to all eyes that have ever seen, by 
moonlight and midnight, the face of Christo- 
pher North, or of Windermere. 

Windermere ! Why, at this blessed moment 
we behold the beauty of all its intermingling 
isles. There they are— all gazing down on 
their own reflected loveliness in the magic 
mirror of the air-like water, just as many a 
holy time we have seen them all agaze, when, 
with suspended oar and suspended breath — 
no sound but a ripple on the Naiad's bow, and 
a beating at our own heart — motionless in 
our own motionless bark — we seemed to 
float midway down that beautiful abyss 
between the heaven above and the heaven 
below, on some strange terrestrial scene 
composed of trees and the shadows of trees, 
by the imagination made indistinguishable 
to the eye, and as delight deepened into 
dreams, all lost at last, clouds, groves, water, 
air, sky, in their various and profound confu- 
sion of supernatural peace. But a sea-born 
breeze is on Bowness Bay ; all at once the lake 
is blue as the sky; and that evanescent world 
is felt to have been but a vision. Like swans 
that had been asleep in the airless sunshine, 
lo ! where from every shady nook appear the 
white-sailed pinnaces ; for on merry Winder- 
mere — you must know — every breezy hour 
has its own Regatta. 

But intending to be useful, we are becoming 
ornamental : of us it must not be said, that 
" Pure description holds the place of sense,"— 

therefore, let us be simple but not silly, as 
plain as is possible without being prosy, as 
instructive as is consistent with being enter- 
taining, a cheerful companion and a trusty 
guide. 

We shall suppose that you have left Kendal, 
and are on your way to Bowness. Forget, as 
much as may be, all worldly cares and anxie- 
ties, and let your hearts be open and free to all 
genial impulses about to be breathed into them 
from the beautiful and sublime in nature. 
There is no need of that foolish state of feeling 
called enthusiasm. You have but to be happy ; 
and by and by your happiness will grow into 
delight. The blue mountains already set your 
imaginations at work ; among those clouds and 
mists you fancy many a magnificent preci- 
pice — and in the valleys that sleep below you 
image to )'ourselves the scenery of rivers and 
lakes. The landscape immediately around gra- 
dually grows more and more picturesque and 
romantic; and you feel that you are on the 
very borders of Fairy-Land. The first smile 
: of Windermere salutes your impatient eyes, 
' and sinks silently into your heart. You know 
not how beautiful it may be — nor yet in what 
the beauty consists ; but your finest sensibilities 
to nature are touched — and a tinge of poetry, as 
from a rainbow, overspreads that cluster of 



A DAY AT WINDERMERE. 



97 



islands that seems to woo you to their still re- 
treats. And now 

"Wooded Winandermere, the river-lake," 
with all its bays and promontories, lies in the 
morning light serene as a Sabbath, and cheer- 
ful as a Holyday; and you feel that there is 
loveliness on this earth more exquisite and 
perfect than ever visited your slumbers even 
in the glimpses of a dream. The first sight of 
such a scene will be unforgotten to your dying 
day — for such passive impressions are deeper 
than we can explain — our whole spiritual being 
is suddenly awakened to receive them — and 
associations, swift as light, are gathered into 
one Emotion of Beauty which shall be imperish- 
able, and which, often as memory recalls that 
moment, grows into genius, and vents itself in 
appropriate expressions, each in itself a picture. 
Thus may one moment minister to years ; and 
the life-wearied heart of old age by one delight- 
ful remembrance be restored to primal joy — 
the glory of the past brought beamingly upon 
the faded present — and the world that is ob- 
scurely passing away from our eyes re-illu- 
mined with the visions of its early morn. The 
shows of nature are indeed evanscent, but their 
spiritual influences are immortal ; and from that 
grove now glowing in the sunlight may your 
heart derive a delight that shall utterly perish 
but in the grave. 

But now you are in the White Lion, and our 
advice to you — perhaps unnecessary — is im- 
mediately to order breakfast. There are many 
parlours — some .with a charming prospect and 
some without any prospect at all ; but remember 
that there are other people in the world besides 
yourselves — and therefore, into whatever par- 
lour you may be shown by a pretty maid, be con- 
tented, and lose no time in addressing yourselves 
to your repast. That over, be in no hurry to get 
on the Lake. Perhaps all the boats are engaged 
— and Billy Balmer is at the Waterhead. So stroll 
into the churchyard, and take a glance over the 
graves. Close to the oriel-window of the church 
is one tomb over which one might meditate 
half an autumnal day. Enter the church, and 
you will feel the beauty of these fine lines in 
the Excursion — 

"Not raised in nice proportions was the pile, 
But large and massy ; for duration built ; 
With pillars crowded, and the roof upheld 
By naked rafters intricately cross'd 
Like leafless underbought, 'mid some thick grove, 
All wither'd by the depth of shade above I" 

Go down to the low terrace-walk along the 
Bay. The Bay is in itself a Lake, at all times 
cheerful with its scattered fleet, at anchor or 
under weigh — its villas and cottages, each re- 
joicing in its garden or orchard — its meadows 
mellowing to the reedy margin of the pellucid 
water — its heath-covered boat-houses — its own 
portion of the Isle called Beautiful — and be- 
yond that silvan haunt, the sweet Furness 
Fells, with gentle outline undulating in the 
sky, and among its spiral larches showing, 
here and there, groves and copses of the old 
unviolated woods. Yes, Bowness-Bay is in 
itself a Lake; but how finely does it blend 
away, through its screens of oak and syca- 
more-trees, into a larger Lake — another, yet 
the same — on whose blue bosom you see 
13 



bearing down to windward — for the morning 
breeze is born — many a tiny sail. It has the 
appearance of a race. Yes — it is a race ; and 
the Liverpoolian, as of yore, is eating them all 
out of the wind, and without another tack will 
make her anchorage. But hark — Music! 'Tis 
the Bowness Band playing " See the conquer- 
ing Hero comes !" — and our old friend has 
carried away the gold cup from all competi- 
tors. 

Now turn your faces up the hill above the 
village school. That green mount is what is 
called a — Station. The villagers are admiring 
a grove of parasols, while you — the party — are 
admiring the village — with its irregular roofs 
white, blue, gray, green, brown, and black 
walls — fruit-laden trees so yellow — its central 
church-tower— and environinggroves variously 
burnished by autumn. Saw ye ever banks and 
braes and knolls so beautifully bedropt with 
human dwellings'? There is no solitude about 
Windermere. Shame on human nature were 
Paradise uninhabited ! Here, in amicable 
neighbourhood, are halls and huts — here rises 
through groves the dome of the rich man's 
mansion — and there the low roof of the poor 
man's cottage beneath its one single syca- 
more ! Here are hundreds of small properties 
hereditary in the same families for hundn ds 
of years — and never, never, O Westmoreland! 
may thy race of statesmen be extinct — nor the 
virtues that ennoble their humble households ! 
See, suddenly brought forth by sunshine from 
among the old woods— and then sinking away 
into her usual unobtrusive serenity — the lake- 
loving Rayrig, almost level, so it seems, with 
the water, yet smiling over her own quiet bay 
from the grove-shelter of her pastoral mound. 
Within her walls may peace ever dwell with 
piety — and the light of science long blend with 
the lustre of the domestic hearth. Thence to 
Calgarth is all one forest — yet glade-broken, 
and enlivened by open uplands ; so that the 
roamer, while he expects a night of umbrage, 
often finds himself in the open day, beneath 
the bright blue bow of heaven haply without a 
cloud. The eye travels delighted over the 
multitudinous tree-tops — often dense as one 
single tree — till it rests, in sublime satisfaction, 
on the far-off mountains, that lose not a woody 
character till the tree-sprinkled pastures 
roughen into rocks — and rocks tower into pre- 
cipices where the falcons breed. But the lake 
will not suffer the eye long to wander among 
the distant glooms. She wins us wholly to 
herself — and restlessly and passionately for a 
while, but calmly and affectionately at last, the 
heart embraces all her beauty, and wishes 
that the vision might endure for ever, and that 
here our tents were pitched — to be struck no 
more during our earthly pilgrimage. Imagina- 
tion lapses into a thousand moods. Oh for a 
fairy pinnace to glide and float for aye over 
those golden waves ! A hermit-cell on sweet 
Lady-Holm ! A silvan shieling on Loughrig 
side! A nest in that nameless dell, which 
sees but one small slip of heaven, and longs at 
night for the reascending visit of its few loving 
stars ! A dwelling open to all the skyey in- 
fluence on the mountain-brow, the darling of 
the rising or the setting sun, and often seen by 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



eyes in the lower world glittering through the 
rainbow ! 

All this seems a very imperfect picture in- 
deed, or panorama of Windermere, from the 
hill behind the school-house in the village of 
Bowness. So, to put a stop to such nonsense, 
let us descend to the White Lion — and inquire 
about Billy Balmer. Honest Billy has arrived 
from Wtiterhead — seems tolerably steady — Mr. 
Ullock's boats may be trusted — so let us take 
a voyage of discovery on the Lake. Let those 
who have reason to think that they have been 
born to die a different death from drowning, 
hoist a sail. We to-day shall feather an oar. 
Billy takes the stroke — Mr. William Garnet 's 
at the helm — and " row, vassals, row, for the 
pride of the Lowlands," is the choral song that 
accompanies the Naiad out of the bay, and 
round the north end of the Isle called Beauti- 
ful, under the wave-darkening umbrage of that 
ancient oak. And now we are in the lovely 
straits between that Island and the mainland 
of Furness Fells. The village has disappeared, 
but not melted away; for hark! the Church- 
tower tolls ten — and see the sun is high in 
heaven. High, but not hot — for the first Sep- 
tember frosts chilled the rosy fingers of the 
morn as she bathed them in the dews, and the 
air is cool as a cucumber. Cool but bland — 
and as clear and transparent as a fine eye 
lighted up by a good conscience. There were 
breezes in Bowness Bay — but here there are 
none — or, if there be, they but whisper aloft in 
the tree-tops, and ruffle not the water, which is 
calm as Louisa's breast. The small isles here 
are but few in number — yet the best arithme- 
tician of the party cannot count them — in con- 
fusion so rich and rare do they blend their 
shadows with those of the groves on the Isle 
called Beautiful, and on the Furness Fells. A 
tide, imperceptible to the eye, drifts us on 
among and above those beautiful reflections — 
that downward world of hanging dreams ! and 
ever and anon we beckon unto Billy gently to 
dip his oar, that we may see a world destroyed 
and recreated in one moment of time. Yes, 
Billy ! thou art a poet — and canst work more 
wonders with thin oar than could he with his 
pen who painted " heavenly Una with her 
milk-white lamb," wandering by herself in 
Fairy-Land. How is it, pray, that our souls 
are satiated with such beauty as this? Is it 
because 'tis unsubstantial all — senseless, 
though fair — and in its evanescence unsuited 
to the sympathies that yearn for the permanen- 
cies of breathing life 1 Dreams are delightful 
only as delusions within the delusion of this 
our mortal waking existence — one touch of 
what we call reality dissolves them all ; bliss- 
ful though they may have been, we care not 
when the bubble bursts — nay, we are glad 
again to return to our own natural world, care- 
haunted though in its happiest moods it be — 
glad as if we had escaped from glamoury; 
and, oh ! beyond expression sweet it is once 
more to drink the light of living eyes — the 
music of living lips — after that preternatural 
'hush that steeps the shadowy realms of the 
imagination, whether stretching along a sun- 
set-heaven, or the mystical imagery of earth 
and sky floating in the lustre of lake or sea. 



.Therefore " row, vassals, row, for the pride 
of the Lowlands ;" and as rowing is a thirsty 
exercise, let us land at the Ferry, and each 
man refresh himself with a horn of ale. 

There is not a prettier place on all Winder- 
mere than the Ferry-House, or one better 
adapted for a honey-moon. You can hand 
your bride into a boat almost out of the parlour 
window, and be off among the islands in a 
moment, or into nook or bay where no prying 
eye, even through telescope, (a most unwar- 
rantable instrument,) can overlook your happi- 
ness ; or you can secrete yourselves, like buck 
and doe, among the lady-fern on Furness Fells, 
where not a sunbeam can intrude on your 
sacred privacy, and where you may melt down 
hours to moments, in chaste connubial bliss, 
brightening futurity with plans of domestic 
enjoyment, like long lines of lustre streaming 
across the lake. But at present, let us visit 
the fort-looking building among the cliffs called 
The Station, and see how Windermere looks 
as we front the east. Why, you would not 
know it to be the same lake. The Isle called 
Beautiful, which heretofore had scarcely 
seemed an isle, appearing to belong to one or 
other shore of the mainland, from this point of 
view is an isle indeed, loading the lake with a 
weight of beauty, and giving it an ineffable 
character of richness which nowhere else does 
it possess ; while the other lesser isles, dropt 
"in nature's careless haste" between it and 
the Furness Fells, connect it still with those 
lovely shores from which it floats a short way 
apart, without being disunited — one spirit 
blending the whole together within the com- 
pass of a fledgling's flight. Beyond these 

" Sister isles, that smile 
Together like a happy family 
Of beauty and of love," 

the eye meets the Rayrig-woods, with but a 
gleam of water between, only -visible in sun- 
shine, and is gently conducted by them up the 
hills of Applethwaite, diversified with culti- 
vated enclosures, " all green as emerald" to 
their very summits, with all their pastoral and 
arable grounds besprinkled with stately single 
trees, copses, or groves. On the nearer side 
of these hills is seen, stretching far off to other 
lofty regions — Hill-bell and High Street con- 
spicuous over the rest — the long vale of Trout- 
beck, with its picturesque cottages, in " num- 
bers without number numberless," and all its 
sable pines and sycamores — on the further 
side, that most silvan of all silvan mountains, 
where lately the Hemans warbled her native 
wood-notes wild in her poetic bower, fitly call- 
ed Dovenest, and beyond, Kirkstone Fells and 
Rydal Head, magnificent giants looking west- 
ward to the Langdale Pikes, (here unseen,) 

" The last that parley with the setting sun." 
Immediately in front, the hills are low and 
lovely, sloping with gentle undulations down, 
to the lake, here grove-girdled along all its 
shores. The elm-grove that overshadows the 
Parsonage is especially conspicuous — stately 
and solemn in a green old age — and though 
now silent, in spring and early summer clamor- 
ous with rooks, in love or alarm, an ancient 
family, and not to be expelled from their heredi- 
tary seats. Following the line of shore to the 



A DAY AT WINDERMERE. 



99 



right, and turning your eyes unwillingly away 
from the bright and breezy Belfield, they fall 
on the elegant architecture of Storr's-hall, 
gleaming from a glade in the thick woods, and 
still looking southward they see a serene series 
of the same forest scenery, along the heights 
of Gillhead and Gummer's-How, till Winder- 
mere is lost, apparently narrowed into a river, 
beyond Townhead and Fellfoot, where the 
prospect is closed by a beaconed eminence 
clothed with shadowy trees to the very base 
of the Tower. The points and promontories 
jutting into the lake from these and the oppo- 
site shores — which are of an humbler, though 
not tame character — are all placed most felici- 
tously ; and as the lights and shadows keep 
shifting on the water, assume endless varieties 
of relative position to the eye, so that often 
during one short hour you might think you 
had been gazing on Windermere with a kaleido- 
scopical eye, that had seemed to create the 
beauty which in good truth is floating there 
for ever on the bosom of nature. 

That description, perhaps, is not so very 
much amiss ; but should you think otherwise, 
be so good as to give us a better : meanwhile 
let us descend from The Station — and its 
stained windows — stained into setting sunlight 
— frost and snow — the purpling autumn — and 
the first faint vernal green — and re-embark at 
the Ferry-House pier. Berkshire Island is 
fair — but we have always looked at it with an 
evil eye since unable to weather it in our old 
schooner, one day when the Victory, on the 
same tack, shot by us to windward like a 
salmon.' But now we are half way between 
Storr's Point and Rawlinson's Nab — so, my 
dear Garnet, down with the helm and let us 
put about (who is that catching crabs 1) for a 
fine front view of the Grecian edifice. It does 
honour to the genius of Gaddy — and say what 
people choose of a classic clime, the light of a 
Westmoreland sky falls beautifully on that 
marble-like stone, which, whether the heavens 
be in gloom or glory, " shines well where it 
stands," and flings across the lake a majestic 
shadow. Methought there passed along the 
lawn the image of one now in his tomb ! The 
memory of that bright day returns, when Win- 
dermere glittered with all her sails in honour 
of the great Northern Minstrel, and of him the 
Eloquent, whose lips are now mute in the dust. 
Methinks we see his smile benign — that we 
hear his voice silver-sweet ! 

"But away with melancholy, 
Nor doleful changes ring"— 

as such thoughts came like shadows, like 
shadows let them depart — and spite of that 
which happeneth to all men — " this one day we 
give to merriment." Pull, Billy, pull — or we 
will turn you round — and in that case there is 
no refreshment nearer than Newby-bridge. 
The Naiad feels the invigorated impulse — and 
her cut-water murmurs to the turie of six knots 
through the tiny cataract foaming round her 
bows. The woods are all running down the 
lake, — and at that rate, by two post meridiem 
will be in the sea. 

Commend us — on a tour — to lunch and din- 
ner in one. 'Tis a saving both of time and 
money — and of all the dinner-lunches that ever 



were set upon a sublunary table, the facile 
principes are the dinner-lunches you may de- 
vour in the White Lion, Bowness. Take a 
walk — and a seat on the green that overlooks 
the village, almost on a level with the lead- 
roof of the venerable church — while Hebe is 
laying the cloth for a repast fit for Jove, Juno, 
and the other heathen gods and goddesses ; and 
if you must have politics — why, call for the 
Standard or Sun, (Heavens ! there is that hawk 
already at the Times,) and devote a few hur- 
ried and hungry minutes to the French Revolu- 
tion. Why, the Green of all Greens — often 
traced by us of yore beneath the midnight 
moonlight, till a path was worn along the edge 
of the low wall, still called " North's Walk"— 
is absolutely converted into a reading-room, 
and our laking party into a political club. 
There is Louisa with the Leeds Intelligencer — 
and Matilda with the Morning Herald — and 
Harriet with that York paper worth them all 
put together — for it tells of Priam, and the 
Cardinal, and St. Nicholas — but, hark! a soft 
footstep ! And then a soft voice — no dialect 
or accent pleasanter than the Westmoreland 
— whispers that the dinner-lunch is on the 
table — and no leading article like a cold round 
of beef, or a veal-pie. Let the Parisians settle 
their Constitution as they will — meanwhile let 
us. strengthen ours ; and after a single glass of 
Madeira — and a horn of home-brewed — let us 
off on foot — on horseback — in gig — car and 
chariot — to Troutbeck. 

It is about a Scottish mile, we should think, 
from Bowness to Cook's House — along the 
turnpike road — half the distance lying embow- 
ered in the Rayrig woods — and half open to 
lake, cloud, and sky. It is pleasant to lose 
sight now and then of the lake along whose 
banks you are travelling, especially if during 
separation you become a Druid. The water 
woos you at your return with her bluest smile, 
and her whitest murmur. Some of the finest 
trees in all the Rayrig woods have had the 
good sense to grow by the roadside, where they 
can see all that is passing, and make their own 
observations on us deciduous plants. Few of 
them seem to be very old— not much older 
than Christopher North — and, like him, they 
wear well, trunk sound to the core, arms with 
a long sweep, and head in fine proportions of 
cerebral development, fortified against all 
storms — perfect pictures of oaks in their prime. 
You may see one — without looking for it — near 
a farm-house called Miller-ground — himself a 
grove. His trunk is clothed in a tunic of 
moss, which shows the ancient Sylvan to great 
advantage — and it would be no easy matter to 
give him a fall. Should you wish to see 
Windermere in all her glory, you have but to 
enter a gate a few yards on this side of his 
shade, and ascend an eminence called by us 
Greenbank — but you had as well leave your 
red mantle in the carriage, for an enormous 
white, long-horned Lancashire bull has for 
some years established his head-quarters not 
far off, and you would not wish your wife to 
become a widow, with six fatherless children. 
But the royal road of poetry is often the most 
splendid — and by keeping the turnpike, you 
soon find yourself on a terrace to which there 



100 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



was nothing to compare in the hanging gar- 
dens of Babylon. There is the widest breadth 
of water — the richest foreground of wood— and 
the most magnificent background of mountains 
— not only in Westmoreland but — believe us — 
in all the world. That blue roof is Calgarth — 
and no traveller ever pauses on this brow 
without giving it a blessing — for the sake of 
the illustrious dead; for there long dwelt in 
the body Richard Watson, the Defender of the 
Faith, and there within the shadow of his me- 
mory still dwell those dearest on earth to his 
beatified spirit. So pass along in high and 
solemn thought, till you lose sight of Calgarth 
in the lone road that leads by St. Catharines, 
and then relapse into pleasant fancies and 
picturesque dreams. This is the best way by 
far of approaching Troutbeck. No ups and 
downs in this life were ever more enlivening 
— not even the ups and downs of a bird learn- 
ing to fly. Sheep-fences, six feet high, are ad- 
mirable contrivances for shutting out scenery ; 
and by shutting out much scenery, why, you 
confer an unappreciable value on the little that 
remains visible, and feel as if you could hug 
it to your heart. But sometimes one does feel 
tempted to shove down a few roods of inter- 
cepting stone-wall higher than the horse-hair 
on a cuirassier's casque — though sheep should 
eat the suckers and scions, protected as they 
there shoot, at the price of the concealment of 
the picturesque and the poetical from beauty- 
searching eyes. That is a long lane, it is 
said, which has never a turning; so this must 
be a short one, which has a hundred. You 
have turned your back on Windermere — and 
our advice to you is, to keep your face to the 
mountains. Troutbeck is a jewel — a diamond 
of a stream — but Bobbin Mills have exhausted 
some of the most lustrous pools, changing 
them into shallows, where the minnows rove. 
Deep dells are his delight — and he loves the 
rugged scaurs that intrench his wooded banks 
— and the fancastic rocks that tower-like hang 
at intervals over his winding course, and 
seem sometimes to block it up ; but the miner 
works his way out beneath galleries and arches 
in the living stone — sometimes silent — some- 
times singing — and sometimes roaring like 
thunder — till subsiding into a placid spirit, ere 
he reaches the wooden bridge in the bonny 
holms of Calgarth, he glides graceful as the 
swan that sometimes sees his image in his 
breast, and through alder and willow banks 
murmurs away his life in the Lake. 

Yes — that is Troutbeck Chapel — one of the 
smallest — and to our eyes the very simplest — 
of all the chapels among the hills. Yet will it 
be remembered when more pretending edifices 
are forgotten — just like some mild, sensible, 
but perhaps somewhat too silent person, whose 
acquaintanceship — nay friendship — we feel a 
wish to cultivate we scarce know why, except 
that he is mild, sensible, and silent; whereas 
we would not be civil to the brusque, upsetting, 
and loquacious puppy at his elbow, whose 
information is as various as it is profound, 
were one word or look of courtesy to save 
him from the flames. For heaven's sake, 
Lousia, don't sketch Troutbeck Chapel. There 
is nothing but a square tower — a horizontal roof 



— and some perpendicular walls. The outlines 
of the mountains here have no specific cha- 
racter. That bridge is but a poor feature — and 
the stream here very common-place. Put them 
not on paper. Yet alive — is not the seconded 
scene felt to be most beautiful 1 It has a soul. 
The pure spirit of the pastoral age is breathing 
here — in this utter noislessness there is the 
oblivion of all turmoil; and as the bleating of 
flocks comes on the ear, along the fine air, 
from the green pastures of the Kentmere 
range of soft undulating hills, the stilled heart 
whispers to itself, " this is peace !" 

The worst of it is, that of all people that on 
earth do dwell, your Troutbeck statesmen, we 
have heard, are the most litigious — the most 
quarrelsome about straws. Not a footpath in 
all the parish that has not cost many pounds 
in lawsuits. The most insignificant stile is 
referred to a full bench of magistrates. That 
gate was carried to the Quarter Sessions. No 
branch of a tree can shoot six inches over a 
march-wall without being indicted for a tres- 
pass. And should a frost-loosened stone tumble 
from some skrees down upon a neighbour's 
field, he will be served with a notice to quit 
before next morning. Many of the small pro- 
perties hereabouts have been mortgaged over 
head and ears mainly to fee attorneys. Yet 
the last hoop of apples will go the same road — 
and the statesman, driven at last from his pa- 
ternal fields, will sue for something or another 
in forma pauperis, were it but the worthless 
wood and second-hand nails that may be des- 
tined for his coffin. This is a pretty picture 
of pastoral life— but we must take pastoral 
life as we find it. Nor have we any doubt that 
things were every w 7 hit as bad in the time of 
the Patriarchs — else — whence the satirical 
sneer, "sham Abraham 1" Yonder is the 
Village straggling away up along the hillside, 
till the furthest house seems a rock fallen with 
trees from the mountain. The cottages stand 
for the most part in clusters of twos or threes — 
with here and there what in Scotland we 
should call a dachan — many a sma' toun with- 
in the ae lang toun ; but where in all braid 
Scotland is a mile-long scattered congregation 
of rural dwellings, all dropt down where the 
Painter and the Poet would have wished to 
plant them, on knolls and in dells, and on 
banks and braes, and below tree-crested rocks, 
and all bound together in picturesque confu- 
sion by old groves of ash, oak, and sycamore, 
and by flower-gardens and fruit-orchards, rich 
as those of the Hesperides 1 

If you have no objections — our pretty dears 
— we shall return to Bowness by Lowood. Let 
us form a straggling line of march — so that we 
may one and all indulge in our own silent 
fancies— and let not a word be spoken, virgins 
— under the penalty of two kisses for one syl- 
lable — till We crown the height above Briary- 
Close. Why, there it is already — and we hear 
our musical friend's voice-accompanied guitar. 
From the front of his cottage, the head and 
shoulders of Windermere are seen in their 
most majestic shape — and from nowhere else 
is the long-withdrawing Langdale so magnifi- 
cently closed by mountains. There at sunset 
hangs " Cloud-land, gorgeous land," by gazing 



A DAY AT WINDERMERE. 



101 



on which for an hour we shall all become poets 
and poetesses. Who said that Windermere 
was too narrow? The same critic who thinks 
the full harvest moon too round — and despises 
the twinkling of the evening star. It is all the 
way down — from head to foot — from the Bra- 
thay to the Leven — of the proper breadth pre- 
cisely — to a quarter of an inch. Were the 
reeds in Poolwyke Bay — on which the birds 
love to balance themselves — at low or high 
water, to be visible longer or shorter than 
what they have always been in the habit of 
being on such occasions since first we brushed 
them with an oar, when landing in our skiff 
from the Endeavour, the beauty of the whole 
of Windermere would be impaired — so exqui- 
sitely adapted is that pellucid gleam to the 
lips of its silvan shores. True, there are flaws 
in the diamond — but only when the squalls 
come ; and as the blackness sweeps by, that 
diamond of the first water is again sky-bright 
and sky-blue as an angel's eyes. Lowood Bay 
— we are now embarked in Mr. Jackson's pret- 
tiest pinnace — when the sun is westering — 
which it now is — surpasses all other bays in 
fresh-water mediterraneans. Eve loves to 
see her pensive face reflected in that serenest 
mirror. To flatter such a divinity is impossi- 
ble — but sure she never wears a smile so di- 
vine as when adjusting her dusky tresses in 
that truest of all glasses, set in the richest of 
all frames. Pleased she retires — with a wa- 
vering motion — and casting "many a longing, 
lingering look behind," fades indistinctly away 
among the Brathay woods ; while Night, her 
eldest sister, or rather her younger — we really 
know not which — takes her place at the dark- 
ening mirror, till it glitters with her crescent- 
moon-coronet, wreathed perhaps with a white 
cloud, and just over the silver bow the lustre 
of one large yellow star. 

As none of the party complain of hunger, 
let us crack among us a single bottle of our 
worthy host's choice old Madeira — and then 
haste in the barouche (ha ! here it is) to Bow- 
ness. It is right now to laugh — and sing — and 
recite poetry — and talk all manner of nonsense. 
Didn't ye hear something crack 1 Can it be a 
spring — or merely the axeltrejel Our clerical 
friendfrom Chester assures us 'twas but a string 
of his guitar — so no more shrieking — and after 
coffee we shall have 

"Rise up, rise up, Xarifa, lay your golden cushion down!" 
And then we two, my dear sir, must have a 
contest at chess — at which, if j^ou beat us, we 
shall leave our bed at midnight, and murder 
you in your sleep. " But where," murmurs 
Matilda, " are we going 1" To Oresthead, love 
— and Elleray — for you must see a sight these 
sweet eyes of thine never saw before — a 

SUBSET. 

We have often wondered if there be in the 
world one woman indisputably and undeniably 
the most beautiful of all women — or if, indeed, 
our first mother were "the loveliest of her 
daughters, Eve." What human female beauty 
is, all men feel — but few men know — and none 
can tell — further than that it is perfect spiritual 
health, breathingly imbodied in perfect corpore- 
al flesh and blood, according to certain heaven- 
framed adaptions of form and hue, yet by a 



familiar yet inscrutable mystery, to our senses 
and our souls express sanctity and purity of 
the immortal essence enshrined within, by aid 
of all associated perceptions and emotions 
that the heart and the imagination can agglo- 
merate round them, as instantly and as unhesi- 
tatingly as the faculties of thought and feeling 
can agglomerate round a lily or a rose, for 
example, the perceptions and emotions that 
make them — by divine right of inalienable 
beauty — the Royal Families of Flowers. This 
definition — or description rather — of human 
female beauty, may appear to some, as indeed 
it appears to us — something vague ; but all 
profound truths — out of the exact sciences — 
are something vague ; and it is manifestly the 
design of a benign and gracious Providence, 
that they should be so till the end of time — till 
mortality puts on immortality — and earth is 
heaven. Vagueness, therefore, is no fault in 
philosophy — any more than in the dawn of 
morning, or the gloaming of eve. Enough, if 
each clause of the sentence that seeks to eluci- 
date a confessed mystery, has a meaning har- 
monious with all the meanings in all the other 
clauses — and that the effect of the whole taken 
together is musical — and a tune. Then it is 
Truth. For all Falsehood is dissonant — and 
verity is concent. It is our faith, that the souls 
of some women are angelic— or nearly so — 
by nature and the Christian religion; and that 
the faces and persons of some women are an- 
gelic or nearly so — whose souls, nevertheless, 
are seen to be far otherwise — and, on that disco- 
very, beauty fades or dies. But may not soul 
and body — spirit and matter — meet in perfect 
union at birth; and grow together into a crea- 
ture, though of spiritual mould, comparable 
with Eve before the Fall 1 Such a creature — 
such creatures — may have been ; but the ques- 
tion is— did you ever see one ? We almost 
think that we have — but many long years ago ; 

" She is dedde, 
Gone to her death-bedde 
All under the willow tree.' 

And it may be that her image in the moonlight 
of memory and imagination, maybe more per- 
fectly beautiful than she herself ever was, 
when 

" Upgrew that living flower beneath our eye." 
Yes — 'tis thus that we form to ourselves — in- 
communicably within our souls — what we 
choose to call Ideal Beauty— that is, a life-in- 
death image or Eidolon of a Being whose voice 
was once heard, and whose footsteps once 
wandered among the flowers of this earth. But 
it is a mistake to believe that such beauty as 
this can visit the soul only after the original 
in which it once breathed is no more. For 
as it can only be seen by profoundest passion 
— and the profoundest are the passions of Love, 
and Pity, and Grief— then why may not each 
and all of these passions — when we consider 
the constitution of this world and this life — be 
awakened in their utmost height and depth by 
the sight of living beauty, as well as by the 
memory of the dead? To do so is surely 
within " the Teachings of our souls,"- -and if 
so, then may the virgin beauty of his daughter, 
praying with folded hands and heavenward 
face when leaning in health on her fathei \s 
i 2 



102 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



knees, transcend even the ideal beauty which 
shall afterwards visit his slumbers nightly, 
long years after he has laid her head in the 
grave. If by ideal beauty, you mean a beauty 
beyond whatever breathed, and moved, and 
had its being on earth — then we suspect that 
not even " that inner eye which is the bliss of 
solitude" ever beheld it : but if you merely 
mean by ideal beauty, that which is composed 
of ideas, and of the feelings attached by nature 
to ideas, then, begging your pardon, my good 
sir, all beauty whatever is ideal — and you had 
better begin to study metaphysics. 

But what we were wishing to say is this — 
that whatever may be the truth with regard to 
human female beauty — Windermere, seen by 
sunset from the spot where we now stand, 
Elleray, is at this moment the most beautiful 
scene on this earth. The reasons why it must 
be so are multitudinous. Not only can the eye 
take in, but the imagination, in its awakened 
power, can master all the component elements 
of the spectacle — and while it adequately dis- 
cerns and sufficiently feels the influence of 
each, is alive throughout all its essence to the 
divine agency of the whole. The charm lies 
in its entirety — its unity, which is so perfect — 
so seemeth it to our eyes — that 'tis in itself a 
complete world — of which not a line could be 
altered without disturbing the spirit of beauty 
that lies recumbent there, wherever the earth 
meets the sky. There is nothing here frag- 
mentary ; -and had a poet "been born, and bred 
here all his days, nor known aught of fair or 
grand beyond this liquid vale, yet had he sung 
truly and profoundly of the shows of nature. 
No rude and shapeless masses of mountains 
— such as too often in our own dear Scotland 
encumber the earth with dreary desolation — 
with gloom without grandeur — and magnitude 
without magnificence. But almost in orderly 
array, and irregular just up to the point of the 
picturesque, where poetry is not needed for the 
fancy's pleasure, stand the Race of Giants — 
mist-veiled transparently — or crowned with 
clouds slowly settling of their own accord into 
all the forms that Beauty loves, when with her 
sister-spirit Peace she descends at eve from 
highest heaven to sleep among the shades of 
earth. 

Sweet would be the hush of lake, woods, and 
skies, were it not so solemn ! The silence is 
that of a temple, and, as we face the west, irre- 
sistibly are we led to adore. The mighty sun 
occupies with his flaming retinue all the re- 
gion. Mighty yet mild — for from his disc, 
awhile insufferably bright, is effused now a 
gentle crimson li£ht, that dyes all the west in 
one uniform glory, save where yet round the 
cloud edges lingers the purple, the green, and 
the yellow lustre, unwilling to forsake the 
violet beds of the sky, changing, while we 
gaze, into heavenly roses ; till that prevailing 
crimson colour at last gains entire possession 
of the heavens, and all the previous splendour 
gives way to one whose paramount purity, lus- 
trous as fire, is in its steadfast beauty sublime. 
And, lo ! the lake has received that sunset into 
its bosom. It, too, softly burns with a crimson 
glow — and, as sinks the sun below the moun- 
tains Windermere, gorgeous in her array as 



the western sky, keeps fading away as it fades, 
till at last all the ineffable splendour expires, 
and the spirit that has been lost to this world in 
the transcendent vision, or has been seeing all 
things appertaining to this world in visionary 
symbols, returns from that celestial sojourn, 
and knows that its lot is, henceforth as hereto- 
fore, to walk weariedly perhaps, and wo-begone, 
over the no longer divine but disenchanted 
earth ! 

It is very kind in the moon and stars — just 
like them — to rise so soon after sunset. The 
heart sinks at the sight of the sky, when a cha- 
racterless night succeeds such a blaze of light 
— like dull reality dashing the last vestiges of 
the brightest of dreams. When the moon is 
" hid in her vacant interlunar cave," and not a 
star can " burst its cerements," imagination in 
the dim blank droops her wings — our thoughts 
become of the earth earthly— and poetry seems 
a pastime fit but for fools and children. But 
how different our mood, when 

"Glows the firmament with living sapphires," 
and Diana, who has ascended high in heaven, 
without our having once observed the divinity, 
bends her silver bow among the rejoicing stars, 
while the lake, like another sky, seems to con- 
tain its own luminaries, a different division of 
the constellated night ! 'Tis merry Winder- 
mere no more. Yet we must not call her me- 
lancholy — though somewhat sad she seems, 
and pensive, as if the stillness of universal na- 
ture did touch her heart. How serene all the 
lights — how peaceful all the shadows ! Stead- 
fast alike — as if they would brood for ever — 
yet transient as all loveliness — and at the 
mercy of every cloud. In some places the 
lake has disappeared — in others, the moonlight 
is almost like sunshine — only silver instead of 
gold. Here spots of quiet light — there lines of 
trembling lustre — and there a flood of radiance 
chequered by the images of trees. Lo ! the 
Isle called Beautiful has now gathered upon 
its central grove all the radiance issuing from 
that celestial Urn ; and almost in another mo- 
ment it seems blended with the dim mass of 
mainland, and blackness enshrouds the woods. 
Still as seems the night to unobservant eyes, it 
is fluctuating in its expression as the face of a 
sleeper 'overspread with pleasant but disturb- 
ing dreams. Never for any two successive 
moments is the aspect of the night the same, — 
each smile has its own meaning, its own cha- 
racter; and Light is felt to be like Music, to 
have a melody and a harmony of its own — so 
mysteriously allied are the powers and pro- 
vinces of eye and ear, and by such a kindred 
and congenial agency do they administer to 
the workings of the spirit. 

Well, that is very extraordinary — Rain — 
rain — rain ! All the eyes of heaven were 
bright as bright might be — the sky was blue 
as violets — that braided whiteness, that here 
and there floated like a veil on the brow of 
night, was all that recalled the memory of 
clouds — and as for the moon, no faintest halo 
yellowed round her orb, that seemed indeed 
" one perfect chrysolite ;" — yet while all the 
winds seemed laid asleep till morn, and beauty 
to have chained all the elements into peace — 
overcast in a moment is the firmament — an 



THE MOORS. 



J03 



evanishing has left it blank as mist — there is 
a fast, thick, pattering on the woods — yes — 
rain — rain — rain — and ere we reach Bowness, 
the party will be wet through to their skins. 
Nay — matters are getting still more serious — 
for there was lightning — yea, lightning! Ten 
seconds ! and hark, very respectable thunder! 
With all our wisdom, we have not been wea- 
ther-wise—or we should have known, when 
we saw it, an electrical sunset. Only look 
now towards the West. There floats Noah's 
Ark — a magnificent spectacle; and now for 
the Flood. That far-off sullen sound proclaims 
cataracts. And what may mean that sighing 
and moaning and muttering up among the 
cliffs 1 See — see how the sheet lightning 



shows the long lake-shore all tumbling with 
foamy breakers. A strong wind is there — but 
here there is not a breath. But the woods 
across the lake are bowing their heads to the 
blast. Windermere is in a tumult — the storm 
comes flying on wings all abroad — and now we 
are in the very heart of the hurricane. See, in 
Bowness is hurrying many a light — for the 
people fear we may be on the lake ; and faith- 
ful Billy, depend on't, is launching his life-boat 
to go to our assistance. Well, this is an ad- 
venture. But soft — what ails our Argand 

Lamp ! Our Study is in such darkness that 
we cannot see our paper — in the midst of a 
thunder-storm we conclude, and to bed by a 
flaff of lightning. 



THE MOORS. 



PROLOGUE. 

Once we knew the Highlands absolutely too 
well — not a nook that was not as familiar to us 
as our brown study. We had not to complain 
of the lochs, glens, woods, and mountains 
alone, for having so fastened themselves upon 
us on a great scale that we found it impossible 
to shake them off; but the hardship in our 
case was, that all the subordinate parts of the 
scenery, many of them dull and dreary enough, 
and some of them intolerably tedious, had 
taken it upon themselves so to thrust their in- 
timacy upon us, in all winds and weathers, that 
without giving them the cut direct there was 
no way of escaping from the burden of their 
friendship. To courteous and humane Chris- 
tians, such as we have always been both by 
name and nature as far back as we can recol- 
lect, it is painful to cut even an impudent 
stone, or an upsetting tree that may cross our 
path uncalled for, or obtrude itself on our 
privacy when we wish to be alone in our me- 
ditations. Yet, we confess, they used some- 
times sorely to try our temper. It is all very 
well for you, our good sir, to say in excuse for 
them that such objects are inanimate. So 
much the worse. Were they animate, like 
yourself, they might be reasoned with on the 
impropriety of interrupting the stream of any 
man's soliloquies. But being not merely in- 
animate but irrational, objects of that class 
know not to keep their own place, which in- 
deed, it may be said in reply, is kept for them 
by nature. But that Mistress of the Ceremo- 
nies, though enjoying a fine green old age, 
cannot be expected to be equally attentive to 
the proceedings of all the objects under her 
control. Accordingly, often when she is not 
looking, what more common than for a huge 
hulking fellow of a rock, with an absurd tuft 
of trees on his head, who has observed you 
lying half-asleep on the greensward, to hang 
eavesdropping, as it were, over your most 
secret thoughts, which he whispers to the winds, 
and they to all the clouds ! Or for some gro- 



tesque and fantastic ash, with a crooked back, 
and arms disproportionately long, like a giant 
in extreme old age dwindling into a dwarf, to 
jut out from the hole in the wall, and should 
your leaden eye chance at the time to love the 
ground, to put his mossy fist right in your phi- 
losophical countenance ! In short, it is very 
possible to know a country so thoroughly well, 
outside and in, from mountain to molehill, that 
you get mutually tired of one another's com- 
pany, and are ready to vent your quarrel in re- 
ciprocal imprecations. 

So was it once with us and the Highlands. 
That "too much familiarity breeds contempt" 
we learned many a long year ago, when learn- 
ing to write large text ; and passages in our 
life have been a running commentary on the 
theme then set us by that incomparable cali- 
graphist, Butterworth. All "the old familiar 
faces" occasionally come in for a portion of 
that feeling ; and on that account, we are glad 
that we saw, but for one day and one night, 
Charles Lamb's. Therefore, some dozen years 
ago we gave up the Highlands, not wishing to 
quarrel with them, and confined our tender as- 
siduities to the Lowlands, while, like two great 
Flats as we were, we kept staring away at each 
other, with our lives on the same level. All 
the consequences that might naturally have 
been expected have ensued ; and we are now 
as heartily sick of the Lowlands, and they of 
us. What can we do but return to our First 
Love 1 

Allow us to offer another view of the sub- 

j ject. There is not about Old Age one blessing 
more deserving gratitude to Heaven, than the 

: gradual bedimmingof memory brought on ^y 
years. In youth, all things, internal and exter- 

, nal, are unforgetable, and by the perpetual 
presence of passion oppress the soul. The 

j eye of a woman haunts the victim on whom 
it may have given a glance, till he leaps per 
haps out of a four-story window. A beautiful 
lake, or a sublime mountain, drives a young 
poet as mad as a March hare. He loses him 
self in an interminable forest louring all roun •-' 



104 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



the horizon of a garret six feet square. It 
matters not to him whether his eyes be open 
or shut. He is at the mercy of all Life and all 
Nature, and not for one hour can he escape 
from their persecutions. His soul is the slave 
of the Seven Senses, and each is a tyrant with 
instruments of torture, to whom and to which 
Phalaris, with his brazen bull, was a pointless 
joke. But in old age " the heart of a man is 
oppressed with care" no longer; the Seven 
Tyrants have lost their sceptres, and are de- 
throned ; and the grayheaded gentleman feels 
that his soul has " set up its rest." His eyes 
are dazzled no more with insufferable light — 
no more his ears tingle with music too exqui- 
site to be borne — no more his touch is trans- 
port. The scents of nature, stealing from the 
balmy mouths of lilies and roses, are deadened 
in his nostrils. He is above and beyond the 
reach of all the long arms of many-handed 
misery, as he is out of the convulsive clutch 
of bliss. And is not this the state of best hap- 
piness for mortal man] Tranquillity! The 
peaceful air that we breathe as we are wester- 
ing towards the sunset-regions of our Being, 
and feel that we are about to drop down for 
ever out of sight behind the Sacred Mountains. 
All this may be very fine, but cannot be said 
to help us far on with our Prologue. Let us 
try it again. Old men, we remarked, ought to 
be thankful to Heaven for their dim memories. 
Never do we feel that more profoundly than 
when dreaming about the Highlands. All is 
confusion. Nothing distinctly do we remember 
— not even the names of lochs and mountains. 
Where is Ben Cru — Cru — Cru — what's-his- 
namel Ay — ay — Cruachan. At this blessed 
moment we see his cloud-capped lfead — but we 
have clean forgotten the silver sound -of the 
name of the country he encumbers. Ross- 
shire 1 Nay, that won't do— he never was at 
Tain. We are assured by Dr. Reid's, Dr. Beat- 
tie's, and Dugald Stewart's great Instinctive 
First Principle Belief, that oftener than once, 
or ten times either, have we been in a day-long 
hollow among precipices dear to eagles, called 
Glen-Etive. But where begins or where ends 
that "severe sojourn," is now to us a mystery 
— though we hear the sound of the sea and 
the dashing of cataracts. Yet though all is 
thus dim in our memory, would you believe it 
that nothing is utterly lost? No, not even the 
thoughts that soared like eagles vanishing in 
the light— or that dived like ravens into the 
gloom. They all re-appear — those from the 
Empyrean — these from Hades — reminding us 
of the good or the evil borne in other days, 
within the spiritual regions of our boundless 
being. The world of eye and ear is not in 
reality narrowed because it glimmers ; ever 
and anon as years advance, a light direct from 
heaven dissipates the gloom, and bright and 
glorious as of yore the landscape laughs to 
the sea, the sea to heaven, and heaven back 
again to the gazing spirit that leaps forward 
to the hailing light with something of the same 
divine passion that gave wings to our youth. 

All this maybe still finer, yet cannot be said, 
any more than the preceding paragraph, much 
to help us on with our Prologue. To come 
then, if possible, to the point at once — We are 



happy that our dim memory and our dim ima- 
gination restore and revive in our mind none 
but the characteristic features of the scenery 
of the Highlands, unmixed with baser matter, 
and all floating magnificently through a spirit- 
ual haze, so that the whole region is now more 
than ever idealized; and in spite of all his 
present, past, and future prosiness — Christo- 
pher North, soon as in thought his feet touch 
the heather, becomes a poet. 

It has long been well known to the whole 
world that we are a sad egotist — yet our ego- 
tism, so far from being a detraction from our 
attraction, seems to be the very soul of it, 
making it impossible in nature for any reason- 
able being to come within its sphere, without 
being drawn by sweet compulsion to the old 
wizard's heart. He is so humane! Only look 
at him for a few minutes, and liking becomes 
love — love becomes veneration. And all this 
even before he has opened his lips — by the 
mere power of his ogles and his temples. In 
his large mild blue eyes is written not only his 
nature, but miraculously, in German text, his 
very name, ©fjristepfjcr 9i0rtf). Mrs. Gentle 
was the first to discover it; though we remem- 
ber having been asked more than once in our 
youth, by an alarmed virgin on whom we 
happened at the time to be looking tender, "If 
we were aware that there was something pre- 
ternatural in our eyes?" (Sfjrtstophet is con- 
spicuous in our right eye — Sfletth, in our left, 
and when we wish to be incog., we either draw 
their fringed curtains, or, nunlike, keep the 
tell-tale orbs fixed on the ground. Candour 
whispers us to confess, that some years ago a 
child was exhibited at six-pence with William 
Wood legible in its optics — having been affili- 
ated, by ocular evidence, on a gentleman of 
that name, who, with his dying breath, dis- 
owned the soft impeachment. But in that 
case nature had written a vile scrawl — in ours 
her hand is firm, and goes off with a flourish. 
Have you ever entered, all alone, the shadows 
of some dilapidated old burial-place, and in a 
nook made beautiful by wild-briers and a flow- 
ering thorn, beheld the stone image of some 
long-forgotten worthy lying on his grave? 
Some knight who perhaps had fought in Pa- 
lestine — or some holy man, who in the Abbey — 
now almost gone — had led a long still life of 
prayer? The moment you knew that you 
were standing among the dwellings of the dead, 
how impressive became the ruins ! Did not that 
stone image wax more and more lifelike in its 
repose? And as you kept ) 7 our eyes fixed on 
the features Time had not had the heart to 
obliterate, seemed not your soul to hear the 
echoes of the Miserere sung by the brethren? 

So looks Christopher — on his couch — in his 
alcove. He is taking his siesta — and the faint 
shadows you see coming and going across his 
face are dreams. 'Tis a pensive dormitory, 
and hangs undisturbed in its spiritual region 
as a cloud on the sky of the Longest Day when 
it falls on the Sabbath. 

What think you of ouk Father, alongside 
of the Pedlar in the Excursion? Wordsworth 
says — 

"Amid the gloom, 
Spread by a brotherhood of lofty elm 



THE MOORS. 



105 



Appear'd a roofless hut ; four naked walls 
That stared upon each other ! I look'd round, 
And to my wish and to my hope espied 
Hi;n whom I sought ; a man of reverend age, 
But stout and hale, for travel unimpair'd. 
There was he seen upon the cottage bench, 
Recumbent in the shade, as if asleep; 
An iron-pointed staff lay at his side." 

Alas ! " stout and hale" are words that could 
not be applied, without cruel mocking, to our 
figure. "Recumbent in the shade" unques- 
tionably he is — yet "recumbent" is a clumsy 
word for such quietude ; and, recurring to our 
former image, we prefer to say, in the words 
of Wilson — 

" Still is he as a frame of stone , 

That in its stillness lies alone, 

With silence breathing from its face, 

For ever in some holy place, 

Chapel or aisle — on marble laid, 

With pale hands on his pale breast spread, 

An image humble, meek, and low, 

Of one forgotten long ago 1" 

No "iron-pointed staff lies at his side" — but 
"Satan's dread," the Crutch! Wordsworth 
tells us over again that the Pedlar — 

" With no appendage but a staff, 
The prized memorial of relinquish' d toils, 
Upon the cottage-bench reposed his limbs, 
Screen'd from the sun." 

On his couch, in his Alcove, Christopher is 
reposing — not his limbs alone — but his very 
essence. The Crutch is, indeed, both de jure 
and de facto the prized memorial of toils — but, 
thank Heaven, not relinquished toils ; and then 
how characteristic of the dear merciless old 
man — hardly distinguishable among the fringed 
draperies of his canopy, the dependent and in- 
dependent Knout. 

Was the Pedlar absolutely asleep 1 We 
shrewdly suspect not — 'twas but a doze. "Re- 
cumbent in the shade, as if asleep" — " Upon that 
cottage-bench reposed his limbs" — induce us to 
lean to the opinion that he was but on the bor- 
der of the Land of Nod. Nay, the poet gets 
more explicit, and with that minute particu- 
larity so charming in poetical description, 
finally informs us that 

" Supine the wanderer lay, 
His eyes, as if in drowsiness, half shut, 
The shadows of the breezy elms above 
Dappling his face." 

It would appear, then, on an impartial con- 
sideration of all the circumstances of the case, 
that the "man of reverend age," though "re- 
cumbent" and "supine" upon the "cottage 
bench," " as if asleep," and " his eyes, as if in 
drowsiness, half shut," was in a mood between 
sleeping and waking ; and this creed is corro- 
borated by the following assertion — 

" He had not heard the sound 
Of my approaching steps, and in the shade 
Unnoticed did I stand some minutes' space. 
At length I hail'd him, seeing that his hat 
Was moist with water-drops, as if the brim 
Had newly scoop'd a running stream." 

He rose ; and so do We, for probably by this 
time you may have discovered that we have 
been describing Ourselves in our siesta or mid- 
day snooze — as we have been beholding in 
our mind's eye our venerated and mysterious 
Double. 

We cannot help flattering ourselves — if in- 
deed it be flattery — that though no relative of 
his, we have a look of the Pedlar — as he is ela- 
14 



borately painted by the hand of a great master 
in the aforesaid Poem. 

Him had I mark'd the day before— alone, 
And station'd in the public way, with face 
Turn'dto the sun then setting, while that staff 
Afforded to the figure of the man, 
Detained for contemplation or repose, 
Graceful support," &c. 

As if it were yesterday, we remember our 
first interview with the Bard. It was at the 
Lady's Oak, between Ambleside and Rydal. 
We were then in the very flower of our age — 
just sixty; so we need not say the century had 
then seen but little of this world. The Bard 
was a mere boy of some six lustres, and had a 
lyrical ballad look that established his identity 
at first sight, all unlike the lack-a-daisical. His 
right hand was within his vest on the region 
of the heart, and he ceased his crooning as we 
stood face to face. What a noble countenance ! 
at once austere and gracious — haughty and be- 
nign — of a man conscious of his greatness 
while yet companioning with the humble — an 
unrecognised power dwelling in the woods. 
Our figure at that moment so impressed itself 
on his imagination, that it in time supplanted 
the image of the real Pedlar, and grew into the 
Emeritus of the Three Days. We were standing 
in that very attitude — having deposited on the 
coping of the wall our Kit, since adopted by 
the British Army, with us at once a library and 
a larder. 

And again — and even more characteristi- 
cally — 

" Plain was his garb : 
Such as might suit a rustic sire, prepared 
For Sabbath duties ; yet he was a man 
Whom no one could have pass'd without remark. 
Active and nervous was his gait ; his limbs 
And his whole figure breathed intelligence. 
Time had compress'd the freshness of his cheeks 
Into a narrower circle of deep red, 
But had not tamed his eye, that under brows, 
Shaggy and grey, had meanings, which it brought 
From years of youth ; whilst, like a being made 
Of many beings, he had wondrous skill 
To blend with knowledge of the years to come, 
Human, or such as lie beyond the grave." 

In our intellectual characters we indulge 
the pleasing hope that there are some striking 
points of resemblance, on which, however, our 
modesty will not permit us to dwell — and in 
our acquirements, more particularly in Plane 
and Spherical Trigonometry. 

" While yet he linger'd in the rudiments 
Of science, and among her simplest laws, 
His triangles — they were the stars of heaven. 
The silent stars ! oft did he take delight 
To measure the altitude of some tall crag, 
That is the eagle's birthplace," Sec. 

So it was with us. Give us but a base and a 
quadrant — and when a student in Jemmy Mil- 
lar's class, we could have given you the alti- 
tude of any steeple in Glasgow or the Gorbals. 
Occasionally, too, in a small party of friends, 
though not proud of the accomplishment, we 
have been prevailed on, as you may have 
heard, to delight humanity with a song — "The 
Flowers of the Forest," "Roy's Wife," "Flee 
up, flee up, thou bonnie bonnie Cock," or 
" Auld Langsyne"— just as the Pedlar 

" At request would sing 
Old songs, the product of his native hills 
A skilful distribution of sweet sounds, 
Feeding the soul, and eagerly imbibed 
As cool refreshing water, by the caie 



106 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



Of the industrious husbandman diffused 
Through a parch'd meadow field in time of 
drought." 

Our natural disposition, too, is as amiable as 
that of the " Vagrant Merchant." 

"And surely never did there live on earth 
A man of kindlier nature. The rough sports 
And teasing ways of children vex'd not him : 
Indulgent listener was he to the tongue 
Of garrulous age ; nor did the sick man's tale, 
To his fraternal sympathy address'd, 
Obtain reluctant hearing." 

Who can read the following lines, and not 
think of Christopher North 1 

" Birds and beasts, 
And the mute fish that glances in the stream, 
And harmless reptile coiling in the sun, 
And gorgeous insect hovering in the air, 
The fowl domestic, and the household dog — 
In his capacious mind he loved them all." 

True, that our love of 

"The mute fish that glances in the stream," 

is not incompatible with the practice of the 
" angler's silent trade," or with the pleasure of 
" rilling our pannier." The Pedlar, too, we have 
reason to know, was like his poet and our- 
selves, in that art a craftsman, and for love 
beat the molecatcher at busking a batch of 
May-flies. We question whether Lascelles 
himself were his master at a green dragon. 
" The harmless reptile coiling in the sun" we 
are not so sure about, having once been bit by 
an adder, whom in our simplicity we mistook for 
a slow-worm — the very day, by the by, on 
which we were poisoned by a dish of toad- 
stools, by our own hand gathered for mush- 
rooms. But we have long given over chasing 
butterflies, and feel, as the Pedlar did, that they 
are beautiful creatures, and that 'tis a sin be- 
tween finger and thumb to compress their 
mealy wings. The household dog we do in- 
deed dearly love, though when old Surly looks 
suspicious we prudently keep out of the reach 
of his chain. As for "the domestic fowl," we 
breed scores every spring, solely for the delight 
of seeing them at their icalks, 

•'Among the rural villages and farms ;" 

and though game to the back-bone, they are 
allowed to wear the spurs nature gave them — 
to crow undipped, challenging but the echoes; 
nor is the sward, like the sod, ever reddened 
with their heroic blood, for hateful to our ears 
the war-song, 

" Welcome to your gory bed, 
Or to victory!" 

' 'Tis our way, you know, to pass from gay 
to grave matter, and often from a jocular to a 
serious view of the same subject — it being 
natural to us — and having become habitual 
too, from our writing occasionally in Black- 
wood's Magazine. All the world knows our 
admiration of Wordsworth, and admits that 
we have done almost as much as Jeffrey or 
Taylor to make his poetry popular among the 
" educated circles." But we are not a nation 
of idolaters, and worship neither graven image 
nor man that is born of a woman. We may 
peem to have treated the Pedlar with insuffi- 
cient respect in that playful parallel between 
him and ourselves ; but there you are wrong 
again, for we desire thereby to do him honour. 
We wish now to say a few words on the wis- 



dom of making such a personage the chief 
character in a Philosophical Poem. 

He is described as endowed by nature with 
a great intellect, a noble imagination, a pro- 
found soul, and a tender heart. It will not be 
said that nature keeps these her noblest gifts 
for human beings born in this or that condition 
of life : she gives them to her favourites — for 
so, in the highest sense, they are to whom 
such gifts befall; and not unfrequently, in an 
obscure place, of one of the Fortuxati 

"The fulgent head 
Star-bright appears." 

Wordsworth appropriately places the birth of 
such a being in an humble dwelling in the 
Highlands of Scotland. 

" Among the hills of Athol he was horn ; 

Where on a small hereditary farm, 

An unproductive slip of barren ground, 

His parents, with their numerous offspring, dwelt: 

A virtuous household, though exceeding poor." 

His childhood was nurtured at home in Chris- 
tian love and truth — and acquired other know- 
ledge at a winter school; for in summer he 
" tended cattle on the hill" — 

"That stood 
Sole building on a mountain's dreary edge." 

And theinfluence of such education and occu- 
pation among such natural objects, Words- 
worth expounds in some as fine poetry as ever 
issued from the cells of philosophic thought. 

" So the foundations of his mind were laid." 
The boy had small need of books — 

"For many a tale 
Traditionary, round the mountains hung, 
And many a legend, peopling the dark woods, 
Nourish'd Imagination in her growth, 
And gave the mind that apprehensive power 
By which she is made quick to recosnise 
The moral properties and scope of things." 

But in the Manse there were books — and he 

read 

" Whate'er the minister's old shelf supplied, 
The life and death of martyrs, who sustain'd, 
With will inflexible, those fearful pangs, 
Triumphantly display'd in records left 
Of persecution and the Covenant." 

Can you not believe that by the time he was 
as old as you were when you used to ride to 
the races on a pony, by the side of your sire 
the Squire, this boy was your equal in know- 
ledge, though you had a private tutor all to 
yourself, and were then a promising lad, as 
indeed you are now after the lapse of a quar- 
ter of a century 1 True, as yet he " had small 
Latin and no Greek;" but the elements of 
these languages may be learned — trust us — 
by slow degrees — by the mind rejoicing in the 
consciousness of its growing faculties—during 
leisure hours from other studies — as they were 
by the Athol adolescent. A Scholar — in your 
sense of the word — he might not be called, 
even when he had reached his seventeenth 
year, though probably he would have puzzled 
you in Livy and Virgil ; nor of English poetry 
had he read much — the less the better for such 
a mind — at that age, and in that condition — 
for 

" Accumulated feelings press'd his heart 

With still increasing weight ; he was o'erpower'd 

By nature, by the turbulence subdued 

Of his own mind, by mystery and hope, 

And the first virgin passion of a soul 

Communing with the glorious Universe." 

But he had read Poetry — ay, the same Poetrv 



THE MOORS. 



107 



that Wordsworth's self read at the same age 
— and 

"Among the hills 
He gazed upon that mighty Orb of Sun, 
The divine Milton." 

Thus endowed, and thus instructed, 
" By Nature, that did never yet betray 
The heart that loved her," 

the youth was "greater than he knew;" yet 
that there was something great in, as well as 
about him, he felt — 

"Thus daily thirsting in that lonesome life," 
for some diviner communication than had yet 
been vouchsafed to him by the Giver and In- 
spirer of his restless Being. 

"In dreams, in study, and in ardent thought, 
Thus was he rear'd ; much wanting to assist 
The growth of intellect, yet gaining more, 

And every moral feeling of his soul 
Strengthen'd and braced, by breathing in content 
The keen, the wholesome air of poverty, 
And drinking from the well of homely life." 

But he is in his eighteenth year, and 

" Is summon'd to select the course 
Of humble industry that promised best 
To yield him no unworthy maintenance." 

For a season he taught a village school, which 
many a fine, high, and noble spirit has done 
and is doing ; but he was impatient of the hills 
he loved, and 

"That stern yet kindly spirit, who constrains 
The Savoyard to quit his native rocks, 
The free-born Swiss to leave his narrow vales, 
(Spirit attach'd to resions mountainous 
Like their own steadfast clouds.) did now impel 
His restless mind to look abroad with hope." 

It had become his duty to choose a profession 
—a trade — a calling. He was not a gentle- 
man, mind ye, and had probably never so much 
as heard a rumour of the existence of a silver 
fork: he had been born with a wooden spoon 
in his mouth — and had lived, partly from choice 
and partly from necessity, on a vegetable diet. 
He had not ten pounds in the world he could 
call his own ; but he could borrow fifty, for his 
father's son was to be trusted to that amount 
by any family that chanced to have it among 
the Athol hills — therefore he resolved on "a 
hard service," which 

" Gain'd merited respect in simpler times ; 
When squire, "and priest, and they who round them 

dwelt 
In rustic sequestration, all dependent 
Upon the Pedlar's toil, supplied their wants, 
Or pleased their fancies with the ware he brought. 

Would Alfred have ceased to be Alfred had 
he lived twenty years in the hut where he 
spoiled the bannocks 1 Would Gustavus have 
ceased to be Gustavus had he been doomed to 
dree an ignoble life in the obscurest nook in 
Dalecarlia ? Were princes and peers in our 
day degraded by working, in their expatria- 
tion, with head or hand for bread? Are the 
Polish patriots degraded by working at eighteen 
pence a day, without victuals, on embankments 
of railroads 1 "At the risk of giving a shock 
to the prejudices of artificial society, T have 
ever been ready to pay homage to the aristo- 
cracy of nature, under a conviction that vigor- 
ous human-heartedness is the constituent prin- 
ciple of true taste." These are Wordsworth's 
own words, and deserve letters of gold. He 
has given many a shock to the prejudices of 



artificial society ; and in ten thousand cases, 
where the heart- of such society was happily 
sound at the core, notwithstanding the rotten 
kitchen-stuff with which it was incrusted, the 
shocks have killed the prejudices; and men 
and women, encouraged to consult their own 
breasts, have heard responses there to the 
truths uttered in music by the high-souled 
Bard, assuring them of an existence there of 
capacities of pure delight, of which they had 
had either but a faint suspicion, or, because 
"of the world's dread laugh," feared to in 
dulge, and nearly let die. 

Mr. Wordsworth quotes from Heron's Scot- 
land an interesting passage, illustrative of the 
life led in our country at that time by that 
class of persons from whom he has chosen 
one — not, mind you, imaginary, though for 
purposes of imagination — adding that "his 
own personal knowledge emboldened him to 
draw the portrait." In' that passage Heron 
says, " As they wander, each alone, through 
thinly inhabited districts, they form habits of 
reflection and of sublime contemplation," and 
that, with all their qualifications, no wonder 
they should contribute much to polish the 
roughness and soften the rusticity of our pea- 
santry. " In North America," he says, " travel 
ling merchants from the settlements have done 
and continue to do much more towards civiliz 
ing the Indian natives than all the missiona 
ries, Papist or Protestant, who have ever been 
sent among them;" and, speaking again oi 
Scotland, he says, " it is not more than twentv 
or thirty years, since a young man going from 
any part of Scotland to England for the 
purpose to carry the pack, was considered as 
going to lead the life, and acquire the fortune 
of a gentleman. When, after twenty years' 
absence in that honourable line of employ- 
ment, he returned with his acquisitions to his 
native country, he was regarded as a gentle- 
man to all intents and purposes." We have 
ourselves known gentlemen who had carried 
the pack — one of them a man of great talents 
and acquirements — who lived in his old age in 
the highest circles of society. Nobody troubled 
their head about his birth and parentage— -for 
he was then very rich; but you could not sit ten 
minutes in his company without feeling that 
he was " one of God Almighty's gentlemen," 
belonging to the " aristocracy of Nature." 

You have heard, we hope, of Alexander 
Wilson, the illustrious Ornithologist, second 
not even to Audubon — and sometimes absurd- 
ly called the Great American Ornithologist, 
because with pen and pencil he painted in 
colours' that will never die — the Birds of the 
New World. He was a weaver — a Paisley 
weaver — a useful trade, and a pleasant place 
— where these now dim eyes of ours firsi saw 
the light. And Sandy was a pedlar. Hear his 
words in an autobiography unknown to the 
Bard : — " I have this day, I believe, measured 
the height of an hundred stairs, and explored 
the recesses of twice that number of misera- 
ble habitations; and what have I gained by 
it? — only two shillings of worldly pelf! but an 
invaluable treasure of observation, in this 
elegant dome, wrapt up in glittering silks, and 
stretched on the downy sofa, recline the fair 



108 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



daughters of wealth and indolence— the ample 
mirror, flowery floor, and magnificent couch, 
their surrounding attendants; while, suspended 
in his wiry habitation above, the shrill-piped 
canary warbles to enchanting echoes. Within 
the confines of that sickly hovel, hung round 
with squadrons of his brother-artists, the pale- 
faced weaver plies the resounding lay, or 
launches the melancholy murmuring shuttle. 
Lifting his simple latch, and stooping for en- 
trance to the miserable hut, there sits poverty 
and ever-moaning disease, clothed in dunghill 
rags, and ever shivering over the fireless 
chimney. Ascending this stair, the voice of 
joy bursts on my ear — the bridegroom and 
bride, surrounded by their jocund companions, 
circle the sparkling glass and humorous joke, 
or join in the raptures of the noisy dance — the 
squeaking fiddle breaking through the general 
uproar in sudden intervals, while the sound- 
ing floor groans beneath its unruly load. 
Leaving these happy mortals, and ushering 
into this silent mansion, a more solemn — a 
striking object presents itself to my view. 
The windows, the furniture, and every thing 
that could lend one cheerful thought, are hung 
in solemn white ; and there, stretched pale and 
lifeless, lies the awful corpse, while a few 
weeping friends sit, black and solitary, near 
the breathless clay. In this other place, the 
fearless sons of Bacchus extend their brazen 
throats, in shouts like bursting thunder, to the 
praise of their gorgeous chief. Opening this 
door, the lonely matron explores, for consola- 
tion, her Bible; and in this house the wife 
brawls, the children shriek, and the poor hus- 
band bids me depart, lest his termagant's 
fury should vent itself on me. In short, such 
an inconceivable variety daily occurs to my 
observation in real life, that would, were they 
moralized upon, convey more maxims of wis- 
dom, and give a juster knowledge of mankind, 
than whole volumes of Lives and Adventures, 
that perhaps never had a being except in the 
prolific brains of their fantastic authors." 

At a subsequent period he retraced his steps, 
taking with him copies of his poems to dis- 
tribute among subscribers, and endeavour to 
promote a more extensive circulation. Of this 
excursion also he has given an account in his 
journal, from which it appears that his suc- 
cess was far from encouraging. Among 
amusing incidents, sketches of character, 
occasional sound and intelligent remarks 
upon the manners and prospects of the com- 
mon classes of society into which he found 
his way, there are not a few severe expressions 
indicative of deep disappointment, and some 
that merely bespeak the keener pangs of the 
wounded pride founded on conscious merit. 
"You," says he, on one occasion, "whose 
souls are susceptible of the finest feelings, who 
are elevated to rapture with the least dawnings 
of hope, and sunk into despondency with the 
slightest thwartings of your expectations — 
think what I felt." Wilson himself attributed 
his ill fortune, in his attempts to gain the 
humble patronage of the poor for his poetical 
pursuits, to his occupation. " A packman is a 
character which none esteems, and almost 
every one despises. The idea that people of 



all ranks entertain of them is, that they are 
mean-spirited loquacious liars, cunning and 
illiterate, watching every opportunity, and 
using every mean art within their power, to 
cheat." This is a sad account of the esti- 
mation in which a' trade was then held in 
Scotland, which the greatest of our living poets 
has attributed to the chief character in a poem 
comprehensive of philosophical discussions 
on all the highest interests of humanity. But 
both Wilson and Wordsworth are in the right: 
both saw and have spoken truth. Most small 
packmen were then, in some measure, what 
Wilson says they were generally esteemed 
to be — peddling pilferers, and insignificant 
swindlers. Poverty sent them swarming over 
bank and brae, and the " sma' kintra touns" — 
and for a plack people will forget principle 
who have, as we say in Scotland, missed the 
world. Wilson knew that to a man like him- 
self there was degradation in such a calling ; 
and he latterly vented his contemptuous 
sense of it, exaggerating the baseness of the 
name and nature of packman. But suppose 
such a man as Wilson to have been in better 
times one of but a few packmen travelling 
regularly for years over the same country, 
each with his own district or domain, and 
there can be no doubt that he would have 
been an object both of interest and of respect 
— his opportunities of seeing the very best 
and the very happiest of humble life, in 
itself very various, would have been very 
great ; and with his original genius, he would 
have become, like Wordsworth's Pedlar, a 
good moral Philosopher. 

Without, therefore, denying the truth of his 
picture of packmanship, we may believe the 
truth of a picture entirely the reverse, from the 
hand and heart of a still wiser man — though 
his wisdom has been gathered from less im- 
mediate contact with the coarse garments and 
clay floors of the labouring poor. 

It is pleasant to hear Wordsworth speak of 
his own " personal knowledge" of packmen or 
pedlars. We cannot say of him in the words 
of Burns, <; the fient a pride, nae pride had he;" 
for pride and power are brothers on earth, 
whatever they may prove to be in heaven. 
But his prime pride is his poetry; and he had 
not now been " sole king of rocky Cumberland," 
had he not studied the character of his subjects 
in "huts where poor men lie" — had he not 
" stopped his anointed head " beneath the doors 
of such huts, as willingly as he ever raised it 
aloft, with all its glorious laurels, in the palaces 
of nobles and princes. Yes, the inspiration 
he " derived from the light of setting suns," 
was not so sacred as that which often kindled 
within his spirit all the divinity of Christian 
man, when conversing charitably with his 
brother-man, a wayfarer on the dusty high- 
road, or among the green lanes and alleys of 
merry England. You are a scholar, and love 
poetry? Then here you have it of the finest, 
and will be sad to think that heaven had not 
made you a pedlar. 

" In days of yore how fortunately fared 
The Minstrel ! wandering on from Hall to Hall, 
Baronial Court or Royal ; cheer'd with gifts 
Munificent, and love, and Ladies' praise ; 



THE MOORS. 



109 



Now meeting on his road an armed Knight, 

Now resting with a Pilgrim by the side 

Of a clear brook;— beneath an Abbey's roof 

One evening sumptuously lodged; the next 

Humbly, in a religious Hospital ; 

Or with some merry Outlaws of the wood; 

Or haply shrouded in a Hermit's cell. 

Him, sleeping or awake, the Robber spared; 

He walk'd — protected from the sword of war 

By virtue of that sacred Instrument 

His Harp, suspended at the Traveller's side, 

His dear companion wheresoe'er he went, 

Opening from Land to Land an easy way 

By melody, and by the charm of verse. 

Yet not the noblest of that honour'd Race 

Drew happier, loftier, more empassion'd thoughts 

From his long journeyings and eventful life, 

Than this obscure Itinerant had skill 

To gather, ranging through the tamer ground 

Of these our unimaginative days ; 

Both while he trode^the earth in humblest guise, 

Accoutred w r ith his burden and his staff; 

And now, when free to move with lighter pace. 

"What wonder, then, if I, whose favourite School 
Hath been the fields, the roads, and rural lanes, 
Look'd on this Guide with reverential love ? 
Each with the other pleased, we now pursued 
Our journey — beneath favourable skies. 
Turn wheresoe'er we would, he was a light 
Unfailing : not a hamlet could we pass, 
Rarely a house, that did not yield to him 
Remembrances ; or from his tongue call forth 
Some way-beguiling tale. 
— Nor was he loath to enter ragged huts, 
Huts where his charity was blest ; his voice 
Heard as the voice of an experienced friend. 
And, sometimes, where the Poor Man held dispute 
With his own mind, unable to subdue 
Impatience, through inaptness to perceive 
General distress in his particular lot ; 
Or cherishing resentment, or in vain 
Struggling against it, with a soul perplex'd, 
And finding in herself no steady power 
To draw the line of comfort that divides 
Calamity, the chastisement of Heaven, 
From the injustice of our brother men ; 
To him appeal was made as to a judge ; 
Who, with an understanding heart, allay'd 
The perturbation ; listen'd to the plea ; 
Resolved the dubious point ; and sentence gave 
So grounded, so applied, that it was heard 
With softened spirit— e'en when it condemn'd." 

What was to hinder such a man — thus born 
and thus bred — with such a youth and such a 
prime — from being in his old age worthy of 
walking among the mountains with Words- 
worth, and descanting 

" On man, on nature, and on human life V 

And remember he was a Scotsman — compatriot 
of Christopher, North. 

What would you rather have had the Sage 
in the Excursion to have been ? The Senior 
Fellow of a College? A Head? A retired 
Judge ? An Ex-Lord Chancellor ? A Na- 
bob? A Banker? A Millionaire ? or, at once 
to condescend on individuals, Natus Consu- 
mere Fruges, Esquire? or the Honourable 
Custos Rotulorum ? 

You have read, bright bold neophyte, the 
Song at the Feast of Brougham Castle, upon 
the restoration of Lord Clifford, the Shepherd, 
to the estates and honours of his ancestors ? 

" Who is he that bounds with joy 
On Carrock's side, a shepherd boy ? 
No thoughts hath he but thoughts that pass 
Light as the wind along the grass. 
Can this be He that hither came 
In secret, like a smother'd flame 1 
For whom such thoughtful tears were shed 
For shelter and a poor man's bread 1 ?" 

Who but the same noble boy whom his high- 
born mother in disastrous days had confided 
when an infant to the care of a peasant. Yet 
there he is no longer safe — and 



" The Boy must part from Mosedale groves 
And leave Blencathara's rugged coves, 
And quit the flowers that summer brings 
To Glenderamakin's lofty springs; 
Must vanish, and his careless cheer 
Be turn'd to heaviness and fear." 

Sir Launcelot Threlkeld shelters him till 
again he is free to set his foot on the moun- 
tains. 

"Again he wanders forth at will, 
And tends a flock from hill to hill : 
His garb is humble ; ne'er was seen 
Such garb with such a noble mien ; 
Among the shepherd grooms no mate 
Hath he, a child of strength and state." 

So lives he till he is restored — 
" Glad were the vales, and every cottage hearth ; 
The shepherd-lord was honour'd more and more ; 
And, ages after he was laid in earth, 
'The good Lord Clifford' was the name he bore !" 

Now mark — that Poem has been declared by 
one and all of the " Poets of Britain" to be 
equal to any thing in the language ; and its 
greatness lies in the perfect truth of the 
profound philosophy which so poetically de- 
lineates the education of the naturally noble 
character of Clifford. Does he sink in our 
esteem because at the Feast of the Restora- 
tion he turns a deaf ear to the fervent harper 
who sings, 

" Happy day and happy the hour, 
When our shepherd in his power, 
Mounted, mail'd, with lance and sword, 
To his ancestors restored, 
Like a re-appearing star, 
Like a glory from afar, 
First shall head the flock of war?" 

No — his generous nature is true to its gene- 
rous nurture ; and now deeply imbued with 
the goodness he had too long loved in others 
ever to forget, he appears noblest when show- 
ing himself faithful in his own hall to the 
"huts where poor men lie;" while we know 
not, at the solemn close, which life the Poet 
has most glorified — the humble or the high — 
whether the Lord did the Shepherd more en- 
noble, or the Shepherd the Lord. 

Now, we ask, is there any essential differ- 
ence between what Wordsworth thus records 
of the high-born Shepherd-Lord in the Feast 
of Brougham 'Castle, and what he records of 
the low-born Pedlar in the Excursion ? None. 
They are both educated among the hills ; and 
according to the nature of their own souls and 
that of their education, is the progressive 
growth and ultimate formation of their cha- 
racter. Both are exalted beings — because both 
are wise and good — but to his own coeval he 
has given, besides eloquence and genius, 

" The vision and the faculty divine," 
that's 

" When years had brought the philosophic mind" 
he might walk through the dominions of the 
Intellect and the Imagination, a Sage and a 
Teacher. 

Look into life, and watch the growth of cha- 
racter. Men are not what they seem to the 
outward eye — mere machines moving about 
in customary occupations — productive labour- 
ers of food and wearing apparel — slaves from 
morn to night at taskwork set them by the 
Wealth of Nations. They are the Children 
of God. The soul never sleeps — not even 
when its wearied body is heard snoring by 
K 



110 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



people living in the next street. All the souls 
now in this world are for ever awake; and 
this life, believe us, though in moral sadness 
it has often been rightly called so, is no dream. 
In a dream we have no will of our own, no 
power over ourselves; ourselves are not felt 
to be ourselves; our familiar friends seem 
strangers from some far off country ; the dead 
are alive, yet we wonder not; the laws of the 
physical world are suspended, or changed, or 
confused by our fantasy; Intellect, Imagina- 
tion, the Moral Sense, Affection, Passion, are 
not possessed by us in the same way we pos- 
sess them out of that, mystery: were life a 
Dream, or like a Dream, it would never lead 
to Heaven. 

Again, then, we say to you, look into life and 
watch the growth of character. In a world 
where the ear cannot listen without hearing 
the clank of chains, the soul may yet be free 
as if it already inhabited the skies. For its 
Maker gave it Liberty of Choice of Good or 
of Evil ; and if it has chosen the good it is a 
King. All its faculties are then fed on their 
appropriate food provided for them in nature. 
It then knows where the necessaries and the 
luxuries of its life grow, and how they may be 
gathered — in a still sunny region inaccessible 
to blight — "no mildewed ear blasting his 
wholesome brother." In the beautiful language 
of our friend Aird — 

" And thou shalt summer high in bliss upon the Hills of 
God." 

Go, read the Excursion then — venerate the 
Pedlar — pity the Solitary — respect the 
Priest, and love the Poet. 

So charmed have we been with the sound of 
our own voice — of all sounds on earth the 
sweetest surely to our ears — and, therefore, we 
so dearly love the monologue, and from the 
dialogue turn averse, impatient of him ycleped 
the interlocutor, who, like a shallow brook, 
will keep prattling and babbling on between 
the still deep pools of our discourse, which 
nature feeds with frequent waterfalls — so 
charmed have we been with the sound of our 
own voice, that scarcely conscious the while 
of more than a gentle ascent along the sloping 
sward of a rural Sabbath day's journey, we 
perceive now that we must have achieved a 
Highland league— five miles — of rough uphill 
work, and are standing tiptoe on the Mountain- 
top. True that his altitude is not very great — 
somewhere, we should suppose, between two 
and three thousand feet — much higher than the 
Pentlands — somewhat higher than the Ochils 
— a middle-sized Grampian. Great painters 
and poets know that power lies not in mere 
measurable bulk. Atlas, it is true, is a giant, 
and he has need to be so, supporting the globe. 
So is Andes ; but his strength has never been 
put to proof, as he carries but clouds. The 
Cordilleras — but we must not be personal — so 
suffice it to say, that soul, not size, equally in 
mountains and in men, is and inspires the true 
sublime. Mont Branc might be as big again ; 
but what then, if without his glaciers 1 

These mountains are neither immense nor 
enormous — nor are there any such in the 
British Isles. Look for a few of the highest on 
Riddell's ingenious Scale — in Scotland Ben- 



J nevis, Helvellyn in England, in Ireland the 
I Reeks ; and you see that they are mere mole- 
hills to Chimborazo. Nevertheless, they are 
the hills of the Eagle. And think ye not that 
an Eagle glorifies the sky more than a Condor] 
That Vulture— for Vulture he is— flies league- 
high — the Golden Eagle is satisfied to poise 
himself half a mile above the loch, which, 
judged by the rapidity of its long river's flow, 
may be based a thousand feet or more above 
the level of the sea. From that height methinks 
the Bird-Royal, with the golden eye, can see 
the rising and the setting sun, and his march 
on the meridian, without a telescope. If ever 
he fly by night — and we think we have seen a 
shadow passing the stars that was on the wing 
of life — he must be a rare astronomer. 
"High from the summit of a craggy cliff 
Hung o'er the deep, such as amazing frown 
On utmost Kilda's shore, whose lonely race 
Resign the setting sun to Indian worlds, 
The Royal Eagle rears his vigorous young, 
Strong-pounced and burning with paternal fire. 
Now fit to raise a kingdom of their own 
He drives them from his fort, the towering seat 
For ages of his empire ; which in peace 
Ilnstain'd he holds, while many a league to sea 
He wings his course, and preys in distant isles." 

Do you long for wings, and envy the Eagle 1 
Not if you be wise. Alas ! such is human 
nature, that in one year's time the novelty of 
pinions would be over, and you would skim 
undelighted the edges of the clouds. Why do 
we think it a glorious thing to fly from the 
summit of some inland mountain away to dis- 
tant isles 1 Because our feet are bound to the 
dust. '"We enjoy the eagle's flight far more 
than the eagle himself driving headlong before 
the storm; for imagination dallies with the 
unknown power, and the wings that are denied 
to our bodies are expanded in our souls. Sub- 
lime are the circles the sun-staring creature 
traces in the heavens, to us who lie stretched 
among the heather bloom. Could we do the 
same, we should still be longing to pierce 
through the atmosphere to some other planet ; 
and an elevation of leagues above tne snows 
of the Himalayas would not satisfy our aspira- 
tions. But we can calculate the distances of 
the stars, and are happy as Galileo in his 
dungeon. 

Yet an Eagle we are, and therefore proud of 
You our Scottish mountains, as you are of Us. 
Stretch yourself up to your full height as we 
now do to ours — and let "Andes, giant of the 
Western Star," but dare to look at us, and we 
will tear the "meteor standard to the winds 
unfurled" from his cloudy hands. There you 
stand — and were you to rear your summits 
much higher into heaven you would alarm the 
hidden stars. 

Yet we have seen you higher — but it was in 
storm. In calm like this, you do well to look 
beautiful — -your solemn altitude suits the sunny 
season, and the peaceful sky. But when the 
thunder at mid-day would hide your heads in a 
night of cloud, you thrust them through the 
blackness, and show them to the glens, crown- 
ed with fire. 

Are they a sea of mountains ! No — they are 
mountains in a sea. And what a sea ! Waves 
of water, when at the prodigious, are never 
higher than the foretop of a man-of-war. Wa v es 



THE MOORS. 



Ill 



of vapour — they alone are seen flying moun- 
tains high — dashing, but howling not — and in 
their silent ascension, all held together by the 
same spirit, but perpetually changing its 
beautiful array, where order seems ever and 
anon to come in among disorder, there is a 
grandeur that settles down in the soul of 
youthful poet roaming in delirium among the 
mountain glooms, and " pacifies the fever of 
his heart." 

Call not now these vapours waves ; for 
movement there is none among the ledges, and 
ridges, and roads, and avenues, and galleries, 
and groves, and houses, and churches, and 
castles, and fairy palaces — all framed of mist. 
Far up among and above that wondrous re- 
gion, through which you hear voices of water- 
falls deepening the silence, behold hundreds 
of mountain-tops — blue, purple, violet, — for 
the sun is shining straight on some and aslant 
on others — and on those not at all ; nor can 
the shepherd at your side, though he has lived 
among them all his life, till after long ponder- 
ing tell you the names of those most familiar 
to him ; for they seem to have all interchanged 
sites and altitudes, and Black Benhun himself, 
the Eagle-breeder, looks so serenely in his 
rainbow, that you might almost mistake him 
for Ben Louey or the Hill of Hinds. 

Have you not seen sunsets in which the 
mountains were embedded in masses of clouds 
all burning and blazing — yes, blazing — with 
unimaginable mixtures of all the colours that 
ever were bom — intensifying into a glory that 
absolutely became insupportable to the soul 
as insufferable to the eyes — and that left the 
eyes for hours after you had retreated from 
the supernatural scene, even when shut, all 
filled with floating films of cross-lights, cutting 
the sky imagery into gorgeous fragments ? And 
were not the mountains of such sunsets, whe- 
ther they were of land or of cloud, sufficiently 
vast for your utmost capacities and powers of 
delight and joy longing to commune with the 
Region then felt to be in very truth Heaven 1 
Nor could the spirit, entranced in admiration, 
conceive at that moment any Heaven beyond — 
while the senses themselves seemed to have 
had given them a revelation, that as it was 
created could be felt but by an immortal spirit. 

It elevates our being to be in the body near 
the sky — at once on earth and in Heaven. In 
the body 1 Yes — we feel at once fettered and 
free. In Time we wear our fetters, and heavy 
though they be, and painfully riveted on, sel- 
dom do we welcome Death coming to strike 
them off — but groan at sight of the executioner. 
In eternity we believe that all is spiritual — and 
in that belief, which doubt sometimes shakes 
but tc prove that its foundation lies rooted far 
down below all earthquakes, endurable is the 
sound of dust to dust. Poets speak of the spirit, 
while yet in the flesh, blending, mingling, being 
absorbed in the great forms of the outward uni- 
verse, and they speak as if such absorption 
were celestial and divine. But is not this a 
material creed 1 Let Imagination beware how 
she seeks to glorify the objects of the senses, 
and having glorified them, to elevate them into 
a kindred being with our own, exalting them 
that we may claim with them that kindred being, 



as if we belonged to them and not they to us 
forgetting that they are made to perish, we to 
live for ever ! 

But let us descend the mountain by the side 
of this torrent. What a splendid series of 
translucent pools ! We carry the Excursion, 
in our pocket, for the use of our friends ; but 
our presentation copy is here — we have gotten 
it by heart. And it does our heart good to 
hear ourselves recite. Listen ye Naiads to 
the famous picture of the Ram : — 

" Thus having reach'd a bridge, that overarch'd 
The hasty rivulet, where it lay becalm'd 
In a deep pool, by happy chance we saw 
A twofold image ; on a grassy bank 
A snow-white Ram, and in the crystal flood 
Another and the same ! Most beautiful 
On the green turf, with his imperial front 
Shaggy and bold, and wreathed horns superb, 
The breathing creature stood ; as beautiful 
Beneath him, show'd his shadowy counterpart ; 
Each had his glowing mountains, each his sky, 
And each seem'd centre of his own fair world. 
Antipodes unconscious of each other, 
Yet, in partition, with their several spheres, 
Blended in perfect stillness to our sight. 
Ah ! what a pity were it to disperse 
Or to disturb so fair a spectacle, 
And yet a breath can do it." 

Oh ! that the Solitary, and the Pedlar, and 
the Poet, and the Priest and his Lady, were 
here to see a sight more glorious far than that 
illustrious and visionary Ram. Two Christo- 
pher Norths — as Highland chieftains — in the 
Royal Tartan — one burning in the air — the 
other in the water — two stationary meteors, 
each seeming native to its own element ! This 
setting the heather, that the linn on fire — this 
a-blaze with war, that tempered into truce; 
while the Sun, astonied at the spectacle, nor 
knowing the refulgent substance from the 
resplendent shadow, bids the clouds lie still 
in heaven, and the winds all hold their breath, 
that exulting nature may be permitted for a 
little while to enjoy the miracle she unawares 
has wrought — alas ! gone as she gazes, and 
gone for ever 1 ? Our bonnet has tumbled into 
the Pool — and Christopher — like the Ram in 
the Excursion — stands shorn of his beams — 
no better worth looking at than the late Laird 
of Macnab. . 

Now, since the truth must be told, that was 
but a Flight of Fancy — and our apparel is 
more like that of a Lowland Quaker than a 
Highland chief. 'Tis all of a snuffy brown — 
an excellent colour for hiding the dirt. Sin- 
gle-breasted our coatee — and we are in shorts. 
Were our name to be imposed by our hat, it 
would be Sir Cloudesly Shovel. On our back 
a wallet — and in our hand the Crutch. And 
thus, not without occasional alarm to the cat- 
tle, though we hurry no man's, we go stalking 
along the sward and swinging across the 
stream, and leaping over the quagmires-j-by 
no means unlike that extraordinary pedestrian 
who has been accompanying us for the last 
half hour, far overhead up-by yonder, as if he 
meant mischief; but he will find that we are 
up to a trick or two, and not easily to be done 
brown by a native, a Cockney of Cloud-Land, 
a long-legged awkward fellow with a head 
like a dragon, and proud of his red plush, 
in that country called thunder-and-lightning 
breeches, hot very, one would think, in such 
sultry weather — but confound us if he has 



112 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



not this moment stript them off, and be not 
pursuing his journey in puris nuturalibus — yes, 
as naked as the minute he was born — our Sha- 
dow on the Clouds ! 

The Picture of the Ram has been declared 
by sumphs in search of the sublime to border 
on the Burlesque. They forget that a sumph 
may just as truly be said to border on a sage. 
All things in heaven and on earth, mediately 
and immediately, border on one another — much 
depends on the way you look at them — and 
Poets, who are strange creatures, often love 
to enjoy and display their power by bringing 
the burlesque into the region of the sublime. 
Of what breed was the Tup 1 Cheviot, Lei- 
cester, Southdown ? Had he gained the Cup 
at the Great North Show? We believe not, 
and that his owner saw in him simply a fine 
specimen of an ordinary breed — a shapely 
and useful animal. In size he was not to 
be named on the same day with the famous 
Ram of Derby, " whose tail was made a rope, 
sir, to toll the market-bell." Jason would have 
thought nothing of him compared with the 
Golden Fleece. The Sun sees a superior sire 
of flocks as he enters Aries. Sorry are we to 
say it, but the truth must be spoken, he was 
somewhat bandy-legged, and rather coarse in 
wool. But heaven, earth, air, and water con- 
spired to glorify him, as the Poet and his friends 
chanced to come upon him at the Pool, and, 
more than them all united, the Poet's own soul ; 
and a sheep that would not have sold for fifty 
shillings, became Lord Paramount of two 
worlds, his regal mind all the time uncon- 
scious of its empiry, and engrossed with the 
thought of a few score silly ewes. 

Seldom have we seen so serene a day. It 
seems to have lain in one and the same spirit 
over all the Highlands. We have been wan- 
dering since sunrise, and 'tis now near sunset; 
yet not an hour without a visible heaven in all 
the Lochs. In the pure element overflowing 
so many spacious vales and glens profound, 
the great and stern objects of nature have all 
day long been looking more sublime or more 
beautiful in the reflected shadows, invested 
with one universal peace. The momentary 
evanescence of all that imagery at a breath 
touches us with the thought that all it repre- 
sents, steadfast as seems its endurance, will 
as utterly pass away. Such visions when 
gazed on in that wondrous depth and purity on 
a still slow-moving day, always inspire some 
such feeling as this ; and we sigh to think how 
transitory must be all things, when the setting 
sun is seen to sink behind the mountain, and 
all the golden pomp at the same instant to 
evanish from the Loch. 

Evening is preparing to let fall her shades — 
and Nature, cool, fresh, and unAvearied, is lay- 
ing herself down for a few hours' sleep. There 
had been a long strong summer drought, and a 
week ago you would have pitied — absolutely 
pitied the poor Highlands. You missed the 
cottage-girl with her pitcher at the well in the 
brae, for the spring scarcely trickled, and the 
water-cresses were yellow before their time. 
Many a dancing hill-stream was dead — only 
here and there one stronger than her sisters 
attempted a pas-seul over the shelving rocks ; 



but all choral movements and melodies for- 
sook the mountains, still and silent as so much 
painted canvas. Waterfalls first tamed their 
thunder, then listened alarmed to their own 
echoes, wailed themselves away into diminu- 
tive murmurs, gasped for life, died, and were 
buried at the feet of the green slippery preci- 
pices. Tarns sank into moors ; and there was 
the voice of weeping heard and low lament 
among the water-lilies. Ay, millions of pretty 
flowrets died in their infancy, even on their 
mother's breast; the bee fainted in the desert 
for want of the honey-dew, and the ground- 
cells of industry were hushed below the hea- 
ther. Cattle lay lean on the brownness of a 
hundred hills, and the hoof of the red-deer lost 
its fleetness. Along the shores of lochs great 
stones appeared within what for centuries had 
been the lowest water-mark ; and whole bays, 
once bright and beautiful with reed-pointed 
wavelets, became swamps, cracked and 
seamed, or Vustling in the aridity with a useless 
crop, to the sugh of the passing wind. On the 
shore of the sea alone you beheld no change. 
The tides ebbed and flowed as before — the 
small billows racing over the silver sands to 
the same goal of shells, or climbing up to the 
same wild-flowers that bathe the foundation of 
some old castle belonging to the ocean. 

But the windows of heaven were opened — 
and, like giants refreshed with mountain-dew, 
the rivers flung themselves over the cliffs with 
roars of thunder. The autumnal woods are 
fresher than those of summer. The mild har- 
vest-moon will yet repair the evil done by the 
outrageous sun ; and, in the gracious after- 
growth, the green earth far and wide rejoices 
as in spring. Like people that have hidden 
themselves in caves when their native land 
was oppressed, out gush the torrents, and de- 
scend with songs to the plain. The hill-country 
is itself again when it hears the voice of 
streams. Magnificent army of mists ! whose 
array encompasses islands of the sea, and who 
still, as thy glorious vanguard keeps deploying 
among the glens, rollest on in silence more 
sublime than the trampling of the feet of 
horses, or the sound of the wheels of chariots, 
to the heath-covered mountains of Scotland, we 
bid thee hail ! 

In all our wanderings through the Highlands, 
towards night we have always found ourselves 
at home. What though no human dwelling 
was at hand? We cared not — for we could 
find a bed-room among the casual inclinations 
of rocks, and of all curtains the wild-brier 
forms itself into the most gracefully-festooned 
draperies, letting in green light alone from the 
intercepted stars. Many a cave we know of— 
cool by day, and warm by night — how they 
happen to be so, we cannot tell — where no 
man but ourselves ever slept or ever will 
sleep; and sometimes, on startling a doe at 
evening in her thicket, we have lain down in 
her lair, and in our slumbers heard the rain 
pattering on the roofing birk-tree, but felt not 
one drop on our face, till at dawning we struck 
a shower of diamonds from the fragrant 
tresses. But to-night we shall not need to sleep 
among the sylvans ; for our Tail has pitched 
our Tent on the Moor — and is now sweeping 



THE MOORS. 



113 



the mountain with telescope for sight of our 
descending feet. Hark ! signal-gun and bag- 
pipe hail our advent, and the Pyramid bright- 
ens in its joy, independent of the sunlight, that 
has left but one streak in the sky. 



FLIGHT FIRST.— GLEN-ETIVE. 

Yes ! all we have to do is to let down their 
lids — to will that our eyes shall see — and, lo ! 
there it is — a creation ! Day dawns, and for 
our delight in soft illumination from the dim 
obscure floats slowly up a visionary loch — 
island after island evolving itself into settled 
stateliness above its trembling shadow, till, 
from the overpowering beauty of the wide con- 
fusion of woods and waters, we seek relief, but 
find none, in gazing on the sky; for the east is 
in all the glory of sunrise, and the heads and 
the names of the mountains are uncertain 
among the gorgeous colouring of the clouds. 
Would that we were a painter ! Oh ! how we 
should dash on the day and interlace it with 
night! That chasm should be filled with en- 
during gloom, thicker and thicker, nor the sun 
himself suffered to assuage the sullen spirit, 
now lowering and threatening there, as if por- 
tentous of earthquake. Danger and fear should 
be made to hang together for ever on those 
cliffs, and halfway up the precipice be fixed 
the restless cloud ascending from the abyss, so 
that in imagination you could not choose but 
hear the cataract. The Shadows should seem 
to be stalking away like evil spirits before 
angels of light — for at our bidding the Splen- 
dours should prevail against them, deploying 
from the gates of Heaven beneath the banners 
of morn. Yet the whole picture should be 
harmonious as a hymn — as a hymn at once 
sublime and sweet — serene and solemn — nor 
should it not be felt as even cheerful — and 
sometimes as if there were about to be merri- 
ment in Nature's head — for the multitude of 
the isles should rejoice — and the new-woke 
waters look as if they were waiting for the 
breezes to enliven them into waves, and wearied 
of rest to be longing for the motion already 
beginning to rustle by fits along the silvan 
shores. Perhaps a deer or two — but we have 
opened a corner of the fringed curtains of our 
eyes — the idea is gone — and Turner or Thom- 
son must transfer from our paper to his can- 
vas the imperfect out-line — for it is no more 
— and make us a present of the finished pic- 
ture. 

Strange that with all our love of nature, and 
of art, we never were a Painter. True that 
in boyhood we were no contemptible hand at 
a Lion or a Tiger — and sketches by us of such 
cats springing or preparing to spring in keela- 
vine, dashed off some fifty or sixty years ago, 
might well make Edwin Landseer stare. Even 
yet we are a sort of Salvator Rosa at a savage 
scene, and our black-lead pencil heaps up con- 
fused shatterings of rocks, and flings a moun- 
tainous region into convulsions, as if an earth- 
quake heaved, in away that is no canny, making 
people shudder as if something had gone 
15 



wrong with this planet of ours, and creation 
were falling back into chaos. But we love 
scenes of beautiful repose too profoundly ever 
to dream of " transferring them to canvas." 
Such employment would be felt by us to be 
desecration — though we look with delight on 
the work when done by others — the picture 
without the process — the product of genius 
without thought of its mortal instruments. We 
work in words, and words are, in good truth, 
images, feelings, thoughts; and of these the 
outer world, «as well as the inner, is composed, 
let materialists say what they will. Prose is 
poetr}' — we have proved that to the satisfaction 
of all mankind. Look ! we beseech you— how 
a little Loch seems to rise up with its tall he- 
ronry — a central isle — and all its silvan braes, 
till it lies almost on a level with the floor of our 
Cave, from which in three minutes we could 
hobble on our crutch down the inclining green- 
sward to the Bay of Waterlilies, and in that 
canoe be afloat among the Swans. All birches 
— not any other kind of tree — except a few 
pines, on whose tops the large nests repose — 
and here and there a still bird standing as if 
asleep. What a place for Roes T 

The great masters, were their eyes to fall 
on our idle words, might haply smile — not 
contemptuously — on our ignorance of art — 
but graciously on our knowledge of nature. 
All we have to do, then, is to learn the theory 
and practice of art — and assuredly we should 
forthwith set about doing so, had we any rea- 
sonable prospect of living long enough to open 
an exhibition of pictures from our own easel. 
As it is, we must be contented with that Gallery, 
richer than the Louvre, which our imagination 
has furnished with masterpieces beyond all 
price or purchase — many of them touched with 
her own golden finger, the rest the work of 
high but not superior hands. Imagination, who 
limns in air, has none of those difficulties to 
contend with that always beset, and often baffle, 
artists in oils or waters. At a breath she can 
modify, alter, obliterate, or restore ; at a breath 
she can colour vacuity with rainbow hues — 
crown the cliff with its castle — swing the draw- 
bridge over the gulf profound — through a 
night of woods roll the river along on its moon- 
lit reach — by fragmentary cinctures of mist 
and cloud, so girdle one mountain that it has 
the power of a hundred — giant rising above 
giant, far and wide, as if the mighty multitude, 
in magnificent and triumphant disorder, were 
indeed scaling heaven. 

To speak more prosaically, every true and 
accepted lover of nature regards her with a 
painter's as well as a poet's eye. He breaks 
not down any scene rudely, and with "many 
an oft-repeated stroke ;" but unconsciously and' 
insensibly he transfigures into Wholes, and all 
day long, from morn till dewy eve, he is pre 
ceded, as he walks along, by landscapes retir 
ing in their perfection, one and all of them the' 
birth of his own inspired spirit. All non-es- 
sentials do of themselves drop off and disap 
pear — all the characteristics of the scenery 
range themselves round a centre recognised! 
by the inner sense that cannot err — and thus 
it is that " beauty pitches her tents before him'* 
— that sublimity companions the pilgrim in.th* 
k 2 



114 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



waste wilderness — and grandeur for his sake 
keeps slowly sailing or settling in the clouds. 
With such pictures has our Gallery been so 
thickly hung round for many years, that we 
have often thought there was not room for one 
other single frame; yet a vacant space has 
always been found for every new clicf-tVccuvre 
that came to add itself to our collection — and 
the light from that cupola so distributes itself 
that it falls wherever it is wanted — wherever 
it is wanted not how tender the shadow! or 
how solemn the gloom ! 

Why, we are now in Glen-Etive — and sitting 
with our sketch book at the mouth of our 
Tent. Our oft-repeated passionate prayer, 

" Oh, for a lodge in some vast wilderness !" 
has once more, after more than twenty years' 
absence, in this haunt of our fanciful youth 
and imaginative manhood, been granted, and 
Christopher, he thinks, could again bound 
along these cliffs like a deer. Ay, wellnigh 
quarter of a century has elapsed since we 
pitched this selfsame snow-white Tent amid 
the purple heather, by the Linn of Dee. How 
fleetly goes, winnowing on the air, even 
the weariest waving of Time's care-laden 
wings ! A few yellow weather-stains are on 
the canvas — but the pole is yet sound — or 
call it rather mast — for we have hoisted our 
topgallant, 

"And lo! the silver cross, to Scotland dear," 

languidly lifts itself up, an ineffectual streamer, 
in the fitful morning breezes ! 

Bold son, or bright daughter of England ! 
hast thou ever seen a Scottish ThrissilT 
What height are you — Captain of the Gren- 
adier Guards? " Six feet four on my stocking 
soles." Poo — a dwarf! Stand up with your 
back to that stalk. Your head does not reach 
above his waist — he hangs high over you — 
"his radious croun of rubies." There's a 
Flower ! dear to Lady Nature above all others, 
saving and excepting the Rose, and he is the 
Rose's husband — the Guardian Genii of the 
land consecrated the Union, and it has been 
blest. Eyeing the sun like an angry star that 
will not suffer eclipse either from light or 
shadow — but burns proudly — fiercely — in its 
•native lustre — storm-brightened, and undi- 
shevelled by the tempest in which it swings. 
See, it stoops beneath the blast within reach 
of your hand. Grasp it ere it recoil aloft; and 
your hand will be as if it had crushed a sleep- 
ing wasp-swarm. But you cannot brush it — 
to do that would require a giant with an iron 
glove. Then let it alone to dally with the wind, 
and the sun, and the rain, and the snow — all 
alike dear to its spears and rubies; and as 
you look at the armed lustre, you will see a 
beautiful emblem and a stately of a people's 
warlike peace. The stalk indeed is slender, 
but it sways without danger of breaking in the 
blast; in the calm it reposes as gently as the 
gowan at its root. The softest leaf that en- 
folds in silk the sweetest flower of the garden, 
not greener than those that sting not if but 
tenderly you touch them, for they are green as 
the garments of the Fairies that dance by 
moonlight round the Symbol of old Scotland, 
and unchristened creatures though they the 



Fairies be, they pray heaven to let fall on the 
Awful Thhissil all the health and happiness 
that are in the wholesome stars. 

The dawn is softly — slowly — stealing upon 
day; for the uprisen sun, though here the 
edge of his disc as yet be invisible, is diffusing 
abroad " the sweet hour of prime," and all the 
eastern region is tinged with crimson, faint 
and fine as that which sleeps within the 
wreaths of the sea-sounding shells. Hark ! 
the eagle's earliest cry, yet in his eyry. An- 
other hour, and he and his giant mate will be 
seen spirally ascending the skies, in many a 
glorious gyration, tutoring their offspring to 
dally with the sunshine, that when their plumes 
are stronger, they may dally with the storm. 
O Forest of Dalness ! how sweet is thy name! 
Hundreds of red-deer are now lying half- 
asleep among the fern and heather, with their 
antlers, could our eyes now behold them, 
motionless as the birch-tree branches with 
which they are blended in their lair. At the 
signal-belling of their king, a hero uncon- 
quered in a hundred fights, the whole herd 
rises at once like a grove, and with their state- 
ly heads lifted aloft on the weather-gleam, 
snuff the sweet scent of the morning air, far 
and wide surcharged with the honey-dew yet 
unmelting on the heather, and eye with the 
looks of liberty the glad daylight that mantles 
the Black Mount with a many-coloured gar- 
ment. Ha ! the first plunge of the salmon in 
the Rowan-tree Pool. There again he shoots 
into the air, white as silver, fresh run from 
the sea! For Loch-Etive, you must know, is 
one of the many million arms of Ocean, and 
bright now are rolling in the billows of the 
far-heaving tide. Music meet for such a morn 
and such mountains. Straight stretches the 
glen for leagues, and then bending through the 
blue gloom, seems to wind away with one 
sweep into infinitude. The Great Glen of 
Scotland — Glen-More itself — is not grander. 
But the Great Glen of Scotland is yet a living 
forest. Glen-Etive has few woods or none — 
and the want of them is sublime. For cen- 
turies ago pines and oaks in the course of 
nature all perished ; and they exist now but in 
tradition wavering on the tongues of old bards, 
or deep down in the mosses show their black 
trunks to the light, when the torrents join the 
river in spate, and the moor divulges its 
secrets as in an earthquake. Sweetly sung, 
thou small, brown, moorland bird, though thy 
song be but a twitter ! And true to thy time — 
even to a balmy minute — art thou, with thy 
velvet tunic of black striped with yellow, as 
thou windest thy small but not sullen horn — 
by us called in our pride Humble Bee — but 
not, methinks, so very humble, while booming 
high in air in oft-repeated circles, wondering 
at our Tent, and at the flag that now unfolds 
its gaudy length like a burnished serpent, as 
if the smell of some far-off darling heather-bed 
had touched thy finest instinct, away thou 
fliest straight southward to that rich flower- 
store, unerringly as the carrier-pigeon wafting 
to distant lands some love-message on its 
wings. Yet humble after all thou art; for all 
day long, making thy industry thy delight, 
thou returnest at shut of day, cheerful even in 



THE MOORS. 



115 



thy weariness, to thy ground-cell within the 
knoll, where as Fancy dreams the Fairies dwell 
— a Silent People in the Land of Peace. 

And why hast thou, wild singing spirit of 
the Highland Glenorchy, that cheerest the long- 
withdrawing vale from Inveruren to Dalmally, 
and from Dalmally Church-tower to the Old 
Castle of Kilchurn, round whose mouldering 
turrets thou sweepest with more pensive mur- 
mur, till thy name and existence are lost in 
that noble loch — why hast thou never had thy 
Bard? "A hundred bards have I had in 
bygone ages," is thy reply; "but the Sassenach 
understands not the traditionary strains, and 
the music of the Gaelic poetry is wasted on 
his ear." Songs of war and of love are yet 
awakened by the shepherds among these lonely 
braes ; and often when the moon rises over 
Ben Cruachan, and counts her attendant stars 
in soft reflection beneath the still waters of that 
long inland sea, she hears the echoes of harps 
chiming through the silence of departed years. 
Tradition tells, that on no other banks did the 
fairies so love to thread the mazes of their 
mystic dance, as on the heathy, and brackeny, 
and oaken banks of the Orchy, during the long 
summer nights when the thick-falling dews 
perceptibly swelledihe stream, and lent a live- 
lier music to every waterfall. 

There it was, on a little river island, that 
once, whether sleeping or waking we know 
not, we saw celebrated a Fairy's Funeral. 
First we heard small pipes playing, as if no 
bigger than hollow rushes that whisper to the 
night winds ; and more piteous than aught that 
trills from earthly instrument was the scarce 
aydible dirge! It seemed to float over the 
stream, every foam-bell emitting a plaintive 
note, till the airy anthem came floating over 
our couch, and then alighted without footsteps 
among the heather. The pattering of little 
feet was then heard, as if living creatures were 
arranging themselves in order, and then there 
was nothing but a more ordered hymn. The 
harmony was like the melting of musical dew- 
drops, and sang, without words, of sorrow and 
death. We opened our eyes, or rather sight 
came to them when closed, and dream was 
vision ! Hundreds of creatures, no taller than 
the crest of the lapwing, and all hanging down 
their veiled heads, stood in a circle on a green 
plat among the rocks ; and in the midst was a 
bier, framed as it seemed of flowers unknown 
to the Highland hills ; and on the bier a Fairy, 
lying with uncovered face, pale as the lily, and 
motionless as the snow. The dirge grew fainter 
and fainter, and then died quite away ; when 
two of the creatures came from the circle, and 
took their station, one at the head and the other 
at the foot of the bier. They sang alternate 
measures, not louder than the twittering of the 
awakened wood-lark before it goes up the 
dewy air, but dolorous and full of the desola- 
tion of death. The flower-bier stirred; for the 
spot on which it lay sank slowly down, and in 
a few moments the greensward was smooth as 
ever — the very dews glittering above the buried 
Fairy. A cloud passed over the moon ; and, 
with a choral lament, the funeral troop sailed 
duskily away, heard afar off, so still was the 
midnight solitude *of the glen. Then the dis- 1 



enthralled Orchy began to rejoice as before 
through all her streams and falls; and at the 
sudden leaping of the waters and outbursting 
of the moon, we awoke. 

Age is the season of Imagination, youth of 
Passion ; and having been long young, shall 
we repine that we are now old ] They alone 
are rich who are full of years— the Lords of 
Time's Treasury are all on the staff of Wis- 
dom; their commissions are enclosed in fur- 
rows on their foreheads, and secured to them 
for life. Fearless of fate, and far above for- 
tune, they hold their heritage by the great 
charter of nature for behoof of all her children 
who have not, like impatient heirs, to wait for 
their decease ; for every hour dispenses their 
wealth, and their bounty is not a late bequest 
but a perpetual benefaction. Death but sanc- 
tifies their gifts to gratitude ; and their worth 
is more clearly seen and profoundly felt within 
the solemn gloom of the grave. 

And said we truly that Age is the season of 
Imagination 1 That Youth is the season of 
Passion your own beating and bounding hearts 
now tell you — your own boiling blood. Inten- 
sity is its characteristic ; and it burns like a 
flame of fire, too often but to consume. Ex- 
pansion of the # soul is ours, with all its feel- 
ings and all its "thoughts, that wander through 
eternity;" nor needeth then the. spirit to have 
wings, for power is given her, beyond the 
dove's or the eagle's, and no weariness can 
touch her on that heavenward flight. 

Yet we are all of" the earth earthy," and young 
and old alike, must we love and honour our 
home. Your eyes are bright — ours are dim; 
but "it is the soul that sees," and " this diurnal 
sphere" is visible through the mist of tears. 
In that light how more than beautiful — how 
holy — appears even this world ! All sadness, 
save of sin, is then most sacred; and sin itself 
loses its terrors in repentance, which alas ! is 
seldom perfect but in the near prospect of dis- 
solution. For temptation may intercept her 
within a few feet of her expected rest, nay, 
dash the dust from her hand that she has ga- 
thered from the burial-place to strew on her 
head ; but Youth sees flowery fields and shining 
rivers far-stretching before her path, and can- 
not imagine for a moment that among life's 
golden mountains there is many a Place of 
Tombs ! 

But let us speak only of this earth — this 
world — this life — and is not Age the season of 
Imagination 1 Imagination is Memory imbued 
by joy or sorrow with creative power over the 
past, till it becomes the present, and then, on 
that vision " far off the coming shines" of the 
future, till all the spiritual realm overflows 
with light. Therefore was it that, in illumined 
Greece, Memory was called the Mother of the 
Muses ; and how divinely indeed they sang 
around her as she lay in the pensive shade ! 

You know the words of Milton — 

" Till old experience doth attain 
To something like prophetic strain;" 

and you know, while reading them, that Expe- 
rience is consummate Memory, Imagination 
wide as the world, another name for Wisdom, 
all one with Genius, and in its "prophetic 
strain" — Inspiration, 



116 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



We would fain lower our tone — and on this 
theme speak like what we are, one of the 
humblest children of Mother Earth. We can- 
not leap now twenty-three feet on level ground, 
(our utmost might be twenty-three inches,) 
nevertheless, we could "put a girdle round 
the globe in forty minutes,"— ay, in half an 
hour, were we not unwilling to dispirit Ariel. 
What are feats done in the flesh and by the 
muscle? At first — worms though we be — we 
cannot even crawl;— disdainful next of that 
acquirement, we creep, and are distanced by 
the earwig; — pretty lambs, we then totter to 
the terror of our deep-bosomed dames— till the 
welkin rings with admiration to behold, sans 
leading-strings, the weanlings walk;— like 
wildfire then we run — for we have found the 
use of our feet; — like wild-geese then we fly 
— for we may not doubt we have wings ; — in 
car, ship, balloon, the lords of earth, sea, and 
sky, and universal nature. The car runs on 
a post — the ship on a rock — the "air hath 
bubbles as the water hath" — the balloon is one 
of them, and bursts like a bladder— and we be- 
come the prey of sharks, surgeons, or sextons. 
Where, pray, in all this is there a single symp- 
tom or particle of Imagination 1 It is of Pas- 
sion " all compact." 

True, this is not a finished picture— 'tis but 
a slight sketch of the season of Youth ; but 
paint it as you will, as if faithful to nature you 
will find Passion in plenty, and a dearth of 
Imagination. Nor is the season of Youth 
therefore to be pitied— for Passion respires 
and expires in bliss ineffable, and so far from 
being eloquent as the unwise lecture, it is 
mute as a fish, and merely gasps. In Youth 
we are the creatures— the slaves of the senses. 
But the bondage is borne exultingly in spite of 
its severity; for erelong we come to discern 
through the dust of our own raising, the pin- 
nacles of towers and temples serenely ascend- 
ing into the skies, high and holy places for 
rule, for rest, or for religion, where as kings 
we may reign, as priests minister, as saints 
adore. 

We do not deny, excellent youth, that to 
your eyes and ears beautiful and sublime are 
the sights and sounds of Nature— and of Art 
her Angel. Enjoy thy pupilage, as we enjoyed 
ours, and deliver thyself up withouten dread, 
or with a holy dread, to the gloom of woods, 
where night for ever dwells— to the glory of 
skies, where morn seems enthroned for ever. 
Coming and going a thousand and a thousand 
times, yet, in its familiar beauty, ever new as 
a dream — let thy soul span the heavens with 
the rainbow. Ask thy heart in the wilderness 
if that " thunder, heard remote," be from cloud 
or cataract; and ere it can reply, it may shud- 
der at the shuddering moor, and your flesh 
creep upon your bones, as the heather seems 
to creep on the bent, with the awe of a pass- 
ing earthquake. Let the sea-mew be the guide 
up the glen, if thy delight be in peace pro- 
founder than ever sat with her on the lull of 
summer waves ! For the inland loch seems 
but a vale overflowing with wondrous light — 
and realities they all look — these trees and 
pas + ures, and rocks and hills, and clouds — not 
softened images, as they are, of realities that 



are almost stern even in their beauty, and in 
their sublimity overawing; look at yon preci- 
pice that dwindles into pebbles the granite 
blocks that choke up the shore ! 

Now all this, and a million times more than 
all this, have we too done in our Youth, and 
yet 'tis all nothing to what we do whenever 
we will it in our Age. For almost all that 
is passion ; spiritual passion indeed — and as 
all emotions are akin, they all work with, 
and into one another's hands, and, however 
remotely related, recognise and welcome one 
another, like Highland cousins, whenever they 
meet. Imagination is not the Faculty to stand 
aloof from the rest, but gives the one hand to 
Fancy and the other to Feeling, and sets to 
Passion, who is often so swallowed up in him- 
self as to seem blind to their vis-a-vis, till all at 
once he hugs all the Three, as if he were de- 
mented, and as suddenly sporting dos-a-dos — is 
off on a gallopade by himself right slick away 
over the mountain-tops. 

To the senses of a schoolboy a green soui 
crab is as a golden pippin, more delicious than 
any pine-apple — the tree which he climbs to 
pluck it seems to grow in the garden of Eden 
— and the parish — moorland though it be — 
over which he is let loose to play — Paradise. 
It is barely possible there may be such a sub- 
stance as matter, but all its qualities worth 
having are given it by mind. By a necessity 
of nature, then, we are all poets. We all make 
the food we feed on ; nor is jealousy, the green- 
eyed monster, the only wretch who discolours 
and deforms. Every evil thought does do — 
every good thought gives fresh lustre to the 
grass — to the flowers — to the stars. And as 
the faculties of sense, after becoming finer and 
more fine, do then, because that they are earth- 
ly, gradually lose their power, the faculties of 
the soul, because that they are heavenly, be- 
come then more and more and more indepen- 
dent cf such ministrations, and continue tc 
deal with images, and with ideas which are 
diviner than images, nor care for either partial 
or total eclipse of the daylight, conversant as 
they are, and familiar with a more resplendent 
— a spiritual universe. 

You still look incredulous and unconvinced 
of the truth of our position — but it was es- 
tablished in our first three paragraphs ; and 
the rest, though proofs too, are intended merely 
for illustrations. Age alone understands the 
language of old Mother Earth — for Age alone, 
from his own experience, can imagine its 
meanings in trouble or in rest — often mysteri- 
ous enough even to him in all conscience — 
but intelligible though inarticulate — nor al- 
ways inarticulate ; for though sobs and sighs 
are rife, and whispers and murmurs, and 
groans and gurgling, yea, sometimes yells and 
cries, as if the old Earth were undergoing a 
violent death — yet many a time and oft, within 
these few years, have we heard her slowly 
syllabling words out of the Bible, and as in 
listening we looked up to the sky, the fixed 
stars responded to their truth, and, like Mercy 
visiting Despair, the Moon bor* 1 it into the 
heart of the stormy clouds. 

And are there not now — have there never 
been young Poets 1 Many; for Passion, so 



THE MOORS. 



117 



tossed as to leave, perhaps to give, the sufferer 
power to reflect on his ecstasy, grows poetical 
because creative, and loves to express itself 
in "prose or numerous verse," at once its 
nutriment and relief. Nay, Nature sometimes 
gifts her children with an imaginative spirit, 
that, from slight experiences of passion, re- 
joices to idealize intentions, and incidents, and 
characters all coloured by it, or subject to its 
sway ; and these are Poets, not with old heads 
on young shoulders, but with old hearts in 
young bosoms ; yet such premature genius 
seldom escapes blight, the very springs of life 
are troubled, and its possessor sinks, pines, 
fades, and dies. So was it with Chatterton 
and Keates. 

It may be, after all, that we have only proved 
Age to be the strongest season of Imagination; 
and if so, we have proved all we wish, for we 
seek not to deny, but to vindicate. Know- 
ledge is power to the poet as it is power to all 
men — and indeed without Art and Science 
what is Poetry] Without cultivation the fa- 
culty divine can have but imperfect vision. 
The inner eye is dependent on the outward eye 
long familiar with material objects — a finer 
sense, cognisant of spiritualities, but acquired 
by the soul from constant communion with 
shadows — innate the capacity, but awakened 
into power by gracious intercourse with Na- 
ture. Thus Milton saw — after he became 
blind. 

But know that Age is not made up of a multi- 
tude of years — though that be the vulgar reckon- 
ing — but of a multitude of experiences ; and 
that a man at thirty, if good for much, must be 
old. How long he may continue in the prime 
of Age, God decrees ; many men of the most 
magnificent minds — for example, Michael An- 
gelo — have been all-glorious in power and 
majesty at fourscore and upwards ; but one 
drop of water on the brain can at any hour 
make it barren as dust. So can great griefs. 

Yestreen we had rather a hard bout of it in 
the Tent— the Glenlivet was pithy — and our 
Tail sustained a total overthrow. They are 
snoring as if it still were midnight. And is it 
thus that we sportsmen spend our time on the 
Moors 1 Yet while " so many of our poorest 
subjects are yet asleep," let us repoint the nib 
of our pen, and in the eye of the sweet-breath'd 
morning — moralize. 

Wellnigh quarter a century, we said, is over 
and gone since by the Linn of Dee we pitched 
— on that famous excursion — the Tent. Then 
was the genesis of that white witch Maga. 

"Like some tall Palm her noiseless fabric grew !" 
Nay, not noiseless — for the deafest wight that 
ever strove to hear with his mouth wide open, 
might have sworn that he heard the sound of 
ten thousand hammers. Neither grew she 
like a Palm — but like a Banyan-tree. Ever as 
she threw forth branches from her great unex- 
hausted stem , they were borne down by the 
weight of their own beauty to the soil — the 
deep, black rich soil in which she grew, origi- 
nally sown there by a bird of Paradise, that 
dropt the seed from her beak as she sailed I 
along in the sunshiny ether — and every lim- 
berest spray there again taking root, reas- ! 
cended a stately scion, and so on ceaselessly j 



through all the hours, each in itself a spring- 
season, till the figurative words of Milton have 
been fulfilled — 

" Her arms 

Branching so broad and long, that in the ground 
The bended twigs take root, and daughters grow 
About the mother tree, a pillar'd shade 
High overarch'd, and echoing walks between ; 
There oft the Ettrick Shepherd, shunning heat, 
Shelters in cool, and tends his pasturing herds 
At loopholes cut through thickest shade." 

But alas ! for the Odontist! He, the " Deli- 
cice generis Humani," is dead. The best of all 
the Bishops of Bristol is no more. Mansel 
had not a tithe of his wit — nor Kaye a tithe of 
his wisdom. And can it be that we have not 
yet edited " His Remains !" " Alas ! poor Yo- 
rick !" If Hamlet could smile even with the 
skull of the Jester in his hands, whom when a 
princely boy he had loved, hanging on his neck 
many a thousand times, why may not we, in 
our mind's eye seeing that mirthful face " quite 
chap-fallen," and hearing as if dismally dead- 
ened by the dust, the voice that " so often set 
our table on a roar !" Dr. Parr's wig, too, is 
all out of frizzle ; a heavier shot has dishevel- 
led its horsehair than ever was sent from the 
Shepherd's gun; no more shall it be mistaken 
for owl a-blink on the mid-day bough, or 
ptarmigan basking in the sun high up among 
the regions of the snow. It has vanished, with 
other lost things, to the Moon ; and its image 
alone remains for the next edition of the cele- 
brated treatise " Be Rebus Deperditis," a suitable 
and a welcome frontispiece, transferred thither 
by the engraver's cunning from the first of 
those Eight Tomes that might make the Throne 
tremble, laid on the shoulders of Atlas who 
threatens to put down the Globe, by the least 
judicious and the most unmerciful of editors 
that ever imposed upon the light living the 
heavy dead — John Johnson, late of Birming- 
ham, Fellow of the Royal Society, and of the 
Royal College of Physicians, whose practice is 
duller than that of all Death's doctors, and his 
prescriptions in that preface unchristianly se- 
vere. O'Doherty, likewise, has been gathered 
to his fathers. The Standard-bearer has low- 
ered his colours before the foe who alone is, 
invincible. The Ensign, let us not fear, has 
been advanced to a company without purchase, 
in the Celestials; the Adjutant has got a Staff 
appointment. Tims was lately rumoured to 
be in a galloping consumption ; but the very 
terms of the report, about one so sedentary, 
were sufficient to give it the lie. Though puny, 
he is far from being unwell ; and still engaged 
in polishing tea-spoons and other plated arti- 
cles, at a rate cheaper than travelling gipsies 
do horn. Prince Leopold is now King of the 

Belgians but we must put an end in the 

Tent to that portentous snore. 

" Arise, awake, or be for ever fallen !" 

Ho — ho ! gentlemen — so you have had the 
precaution to sleep in your clothes. The sun, 
like Maga, is mounting higher and higher in 
heaven ; so let us, we beseech you, to break- 
fast, and then off to the Moors. 

" Substantial breakfast !" by Dugald Dhu, 
and by Donald Roy, and by Hamish Bhan- 
heaped up like icebergs round the pole. How 
nobly stands in the centre that ten-gallon Cask 



118 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH 



of Glenlivet ! Proud is that round to court his 
shade. That twenty-pound Salmon lies be- 
neath it even as yesterday he lay beneath the 
cliff, while a column of light falls from him on 
that Grouse-Pie. Is not that Ham beautiful in 
the calm consciousness of his protection ? 
That Tongue mutely eloquent in his praise? 
Tap him with your knuckles, tenderly as if 
you loved him — and that with all your heart 
and soul you do — and is not the response firm 
as from the trunk of the gnarled oak? He is 
yet " Virgin of Proserpina" — " by Jove" he is ; 
no wanton lip has ever touched his mouth so 
chaste; so knock out the bung, and let us hear 
him gurgle. With diviner music does he fill 
the pitcher, and with a diviner liquidity of light 
than did ever Naiad from fount of Helicon or 
Castaly, pour into classic urn gracefully up- 
lifted by Grecian damsel to her graceful head, 
and borne away, with a thanksgiving hymn, 
to her bower in the olive-grove. 

All eggs are good eating ; and 'tis a vulgar 
heresy which hold that those laid by sea-fowl 
have a fishy taste. The egg of the Sea-mew 
is exceeding sweet ; so is that of the Gull. 
Pleasant is even the yolk of the Cormorant — 
in the north of England ycleped the Scarth, 
and in the Lowlands of Scotland the Black By- 
uter. Try a Black Byuter's egg, my dear boy ; 
for though not newly laid, it has since May 
been preserved in butter, and is as fresh as a 
daisy after a shower. Do not be afraid of 
stumbling on a brace of embryo Black Byu- 
ters in the interior of the globe, for by its 
weight we pronounce it an egg in no peril of 
parturition. You may now smack your lips, 
loud as if you were smacking your palms, for 
that yellow morsel was unknown to Vitellius. 
Don't crush the shell, but throw it into the 
Etive, that the Fairies may find it at night, and 
go dancing in the fragile but buoyant canoe, 
in fits of small shrill laughter, along with the 
foam-bells over the ebbtide Rapids above Cou- 
ncil's raging Ferry. 

The salmon is in shivers, and the grouse-pie 
has vanished like a dream. 

" So fades, so languishes, grows dim, and dies, 
All that this world is proud of!" 

Only a goose remains ! and would that he too 
were gone to return no more ; for he makes us 
an old man. No tradition survives in the 
Glen of the era at which he first flourished. He 
seems to have belonged to some tribe of the 
Anseres now extinct ; and as for his own single 
individual self, our senses tell us, in a language 
not to be misinterpreted, that he must have be- 
come defunct in the darkness of antiquity. But 
nothing can be too old for a devil — so at sup- 
per let us rectify him in Cayenne. 

Oh ! for David Wilkie, or William Simpson, 
(while we send Gibb to bring away yonder 
Shieling and its cliff,) to paint a picture— co- 
loured, if possible, from the life — of the Interior 
of our airy Pyramid. Door open, and perpen- 
dicular canvas walls folded up — that settled 
but cloudy sky, with here its broad blue fields, 
and there its broad blue glimpsing glades — this 
greensward mound in the midst of a wilder- 
ness of rock-strewn hether — as much of that 
one mountain, and as many of those others, as 



it can be made to hold — that bright bend of 
the river — a silver bow — and that white-sand- 
ed, shelly, shingly shore at Loch-Etive Head, 
on which a troop of Tritons are " charging 
with all their chivalry," still driven back and 
still returning, to the sound of trumpets, of 
"flutes and soft recorders," from the sea. On 
the table, all strewn and scattered " in confu- 
sion worse confounded," round the Cask, which 

" dilated stands 

Like TenerirTe or Atlas unremoved," 

what " buttery touches" might be given to the 

"reliquias Danaum atque inmitis Achillei!" 

Then the camp-beds tidily covered and arrang- 
ed along their own department of the circle — 
quaint dresses hanging from loops, all the va- 
rious apparelling of hunter, shooter, fisher, and 
forester — rods, baskets, and nets occupying 
their picturesque division — -.fowling-pieces, 
double and single, rejoicing through the oil- 
smooth brownness of their barrels in the ex- 
quisite workmanship of a Manton and a Lan- 
caster — American rifles, with their stocks more 
richly silver-chased than you could have 
thought within reach of the arts in that young 
and prosperous land — duck-guns, whose for- 
midable and fatal length had in Lincolnshire 
often swept the fens — and on each side of the 
door, a brass carronade on idle hours to awa- 
ken the echoes — sitting erect on their hurdies, 
deerhound, greyhound, lucher, pointer, setter, 
spaniel, varmint, and though last, not least, 
O'Bronte watching Christopher with his stead- 
fast eyes, slightly raised his large hanging 
triangular ears, his Thessalian bull dewlaps 
betokening keen anxiety to be off and away to 
the mountain, and with a full view of the white 
star on his coal-black breast, — 

" Plaided and plumed in their Tartan array," 

our three chosen Highlanders, chosen for their 
strength and their fleetness from among the 
prime Children of the Mist — and Tickler the 
Tall, who keeps growing after threescore and 
ten like a stripling, and leaves his mark within 
a few inches of the top of the pole, arrayed in 
tights of Kendal green, bright from the skylight 
of the inimitable Vallance or the matchless 
Williams — green too his vest, and green also 
his tunic — while a green feather in a green 
bonnet dances in its airy splendour, and gold 
button-holes give at once lustre and relief to 
the glowing verdure, (such was Little John, 
when arrayed in all his glory, to walk behind 
Robin Hood and Maid Marian, as they glided 
from tree to tree, in wait for the fallow-deer in 
merry Sherwood,) — North in his Quaker garb 
— Quaker-like all but in cuffs and flaps, which, 
when he goes to the Forest, are not — North, 
With a figure combining in itself all the strength 
of a William Penn, sans its corpulency, all the 
agility of a Tern Belcher with far more than a 
Jem Belcher's bottom — with a face exhibiting 
in rarest union all the philosophy of a Bacon, 
the benevolence of a Howard, the wisdom of a 
Wordsworth, the fire of a Byron, the gnosticity 
of a John Bee, and the up-to-trappishness com- 
bined not onlv with perfect honesty, but with 
honour bright, of the Sporting Editor of Bell's 
Life in London — and then, why if Wilkie or 



THE MOORS. 



119 



Simpson fail i,n making a gem of all that, they 
are not the men of genius we took them for, 
that is all, and the art must be at a low ebb in- 
deed in these kingdoms. 

Well, our Tail has taken wings to itself and 
flown away with Dugald Dhu and Donald Roy ; 
and we, with Hamish Bhan, with Ponto, Piro, 
Basta, and O'Bronte, are left by ourselves in 
the Tent. Before we proceed farther, it may 
not be much amiss to turn up our little fingers 
— yestreen we were all a leetle opstropelous — 
and spermaceti is not a more " sovereign re- 
medy for an inward bruise," than is a hair from 
the dog's tail that bit you an antidote to any 
pus that produces rabies in the shape of hy- 
drophobia. Fill up the quech, Hamish ! a 
caulker of Milbank can harm no man at any 
hour of the day — at least in the Highlands. 
Sma' Stell, Hamish — assuredly Sma' Stell ! 

Ere we start, Hamish, play us a Gathering — 
and then a. Pibroch. "The Campbells are 
coming" is like a storm from the mountain 
sweeping Glen-More, that roars beneath the 
hastening hurricane with all its woods. No 
earthquake like that which accompanies the 
trampling of ten thousand men. So, round 
that shoulder, Hamish — and away for a mile 
tip the Glen — then, turning on your heel, blow 
till proud might be the mother that bore you; 
and from the Tent-mouth Christopher will 
keep smart fire from his Pattereroes, answered 
by all the echoes. Hamish — indeed 
"The dun-deer's hide 
On swifter foot was never tied—" 

for even now as that cloud — rather thunderous 
in his aspect — settles himself over the Tent — 
ere five minutes have elapsed — a mile off is 
the sullen sound of the bagpipe! — music 
which, if it rouse you not when heard among 
the mountains, may you henceforth confine 
yourself to the Jew's harp. Ay, here's a clay- 
more — let us fling away the scabbard — and in 
upon the front rank of the bayoneted muskets, 
till the Saxon array reels, or falls just where 
it has been standing, like a swathe of grass. 
So swept of old the Highlanders — shepherds 
and herdsmen — down the wooded cliffs of the 
pass of Killiekrankie, till Mackay's red-coats 
lay redder in blood among the heather, or 
passed away like the lurid fragments of a 
cloud. " The Campbell's are coming" — and we 
will charge with the heroes in the van. The 
whole clan is maddening along the Moor — and 
Maccallum More himself is at their head. But 
we beseech you, O'Bronte ! not to look so like 
a lion — and to hush in your throat and breast 
that truly leonine growl — for after all, 'tis but 
a bagpipe with ribands 

" Streaming like meteors to the troubled air," 
and all our martial enthusiasm has evaporated 
in — wind. 

But let us inspect Brown Bess. Till sixty, 
we used a single barrel. At seventy we took 
to a double; — but dang detonators — we stick 
to the flint. "Flint," says Colonel Hawker, 
u shoots strongest into the bird." A percus- 
sion-gun is quicker, but flint is fast enough ; 
and it does, indeed, argue rather a confusion 
than a rapidity of ideas, to find fault with 
lightning for being too slow. With respect to 
the flash in the pan, it is but a fair warning to 



ducks, for example, to dive if they can, and get 
out of the way of mischief. It is giving birds 
a chance for their lives, and is it not ungene- 
rous to grudge it? When our gun goes to our 
shoulder, that chance is but small; for with 
double-barrel Brown Bess, it is but a word and 
a blow, — the blow first, and long before you 
could say Jack Robinson, the gorcock plays 
thud on the heather. But we beg leave to set 
the question at rest for ever by one single 
clencher. We have killed fifty birds — grouse 
— at fifty successive shots — one bird only to the 
shot. And mind, not mere pouts — cheepers — 
for we are no chicken-butchers — but all thump- 
ers — cocks and hens as big as their parents, and 
the parents themselves likewise ; not one of 
which fell out of bounds, (to borrow a phrase 
from the somewhat silly though skilful pastime 
of pigeon-shooting,) except one that suddenly 
soared halfway up to the moon, and then 

"Into such strange vagaries fell 
As he would dance," 

and tumbled down stone-dead into a loch. 
Now, what more could have done a detonator 
in the hands of the devil himself] Satan 
might have shot as well, perhaps, as Christo- 
pher North — better we defy him ; and we can- 
not doubt that his detonator — given to him in 
a present, we believe, by Joe Manton — is 'a 
prime article — one of the best ever manufac- 
tured on the percussion system. But what 
more could he have done ? When we had 
killed our fiftieth bird in style, we put it to the 
Christian reader, would not the odds have been 
six to four on the flint'? And would not Satan, 
at the close of the match, ten birds behind per- 
haps, and with a bag shamefully rich in poor 
pouts, that would have fallen to the ground 
had he but thrown salt on their tails, have 
looked excessively sheepish? True, that in 
rain or snow the percussion-lock will act, from 
its detonating power, more correctly than the 
common flint-lock, which, begging its pardon, 
will then often not act at all ; but that is its 
only advantage, and we confess a great one, 
especially in Scotland, where it is a libel on 
the country to say that it always rains, for it 
almost as often snows. However, spite of 
wind and weather, we are faithful to flint ; nor 
shall any newfangled invention, howsoever 
ingenious, wean us from our First Love. 

Let not yo.uthful or middle-aged sportsmen 
— in whose veins the blood yet gallops, canters, 
or trots — despise us, Monsieur Vieillard, in 
whose veins the blood creeps like a wearied 
pedestrian at twilight hardly able to hobble 
into the wayside inn — for thus so long prefer- 
ring the steel-pen to the steel barrel (the style 
of both is equally polished) — our Bramah to 
our Manton. Those two wild young fellows, 
Tickler and the Admiral, whose united ages 
amount to little more than a century and a half, 
are already slaughtering their way along the 
mountain side, the one on Bauchaille Etive, 
and the other on the Black Mount. But we 
love not to commit murder long before men 
dian — "gentle lover of Nature" as we are; sc, 
in spite of the scorn of the more passionate 
sportsman, we shall continue for an hour or 
two longer inditing, ever and anon lifting our 
eyes from whitey-brown paper to whitey-blue 



12C 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



sky, from memorandum-book to mountain, 
from inkbottle to loch, and delight ourselves, 
and perchance a few thousand others, by a 
waking-dream description of Glen-Elive. 

'Tis a vast Glen. Not one single human 
dwelling any where spec-like on the river-wind- 
ing plain — or nest-like among the brushwood 
knolls — or rock-like among the fractured cliffs 
far up on the mountain region do our eyes be- 
hold, eager as they are to discover some symp- 
toms of life. Two houses we know to be in 
the solitude — ay, two — one of them near the 
head of the Loch, and the other near the head 
of the Glen — but both distant from this our 
Tent, which is pitched between, in the very 
heart of the Moor. We were mistaken in say- 
ing that Dalness is invisible — for yonder it 
looms in sullen light, and before we have fin- 
ished the sentence, may have again sunk into 
the moor. Ay, it is gone — for lights and sha- 
dows coming and going, we know not whence 
nor whither, here travel all day long — the 
sole tenants — very ghost-like — and seeming- 
ly in their shiftings embued with a sort of dim 
uncertain life. How far off from our Tent 
may be the Loch 1 ? Miles — and silently as 
snow are seen to break the waves along the 
shore, while beyond them hangs, in aerial haze, 
the great blue water. How far off from our 
Tent may be the mountains at the head of the 
Glen ? Miles — for though that speck in the 
sky into which they upheave their mighty alti- 
tudes, be doubtless an eagle, we cannot hear 
its cry. What giants are these right opposite 
our Pyramid ? Co — grim chieftain — and his 
Tail. What an assemblage of thunder-riven 
cliffs ! This is what may be well called — Na- 
ture on a grand scale. And then, how simple ! 
We begin to feel ourselves — in spite of all we 
can do to support our dignity by our pride — a 
mighty small and insignificant personage. We 
are about six feet high — and every body 
around us about four thousand. Yes, that is 
the Four Thousand Feet Club ! We had no 
idea that in any situation we could be such 
dwindled dwarfs, such perfect pigmies. Our 
Tent is about as big as a fir-cone — and Chris- 
topher North an insect ! 

What a wild world of clouds all over that 
vast central wilderness of Northern Argyle- 
shire lying between Cruachan and Melnatorran 
— Corryfinuarach and Ben Slarive a prodigious 
land ! defying description, and in memory re- 
sembling not realities, but like fragments of 
tremendous dreams. Is it a sterile region? 
Very. In places nothing but stones. Not a 
blade of grass — not a bent of heather — not 
even moss. And so they go shouldering up 
into the sky — enormous masses — huger than 
churches or ships. And sometimes not unlike 
such and other structures — all huddled together 
— yet never jostling, so far as we have seen ; and 
though often overhanging, as if the wind might 
blow them over with a puff, steadfast in the 
storm that seems rather to be an earthquake, 
and moving not a hair's-breadth, while all the 
shingly sides of the mountains — you know 
shingle — with an inconstant clatter — hurry- 
skurry — seem to be breaking up into debris. 

Is that the character of the whole region ? 
No, you darling; it has vales on vales of erne 



raid, and mountains on mountains of amethyst, 
and streams on streams of silver; and, so 
help us Heaven ! — for with these eyes we have 
seen them, a thousand and a thousand times — 
at sunrise and sunset, rivers on rivers of gold. 
What kind of climate] All kinds, and all 
kinds at once — not merely during the same 
season, but the same hour. Suppose it three 
o'clock of a summer afternoon — you have but 
to choose your weather. Do you desire a close, 
sultry, breathless gloom'? You have it in the 
stifling. dens of Ben-Anea, where lions might 
breed. A breezy coolness, with a sprinkling 
of rain ? Then open your vest to the green 
light in the dewy vales of Benlura. Lochs 
look lovely in mist, and so thinks the rainbow 
— -then away with you ere the rainbow fade — 
away, we beseech you, to the wild shores of 
Lochan-a-Lurich. But you would rather see a 
storm, and hear some Highland thunder? 
There is one at this moment on Unimore, and 
Cruachlia growls to Meallanuir, till the cata- 
racts of Glashgour are dumb as the dry rocks 
of Craig-Teonan. 

In those regions we were, when a boy, initi- 
ated into the highest mysteries of the Highlands. 
No guide dogged our steps — as well might a 
red-deer have asked a cur to show him the 
Forest of Braemar, or Beniglo — an eagle where 
best to build his eyry have advised with the 
Glasgow Gander. O heavens ! how we were 
bewildered among the vast objects that fed that 
delirium of our boyhood! We dimly recog- 
nised faces of cliffs wearing dreadful frowns ; 
blind though they looked, they seemed sensible 
of our approach ; and we heard one horrid 
monster mutter, " What brings thee here, in- 
fatuated Pech — begone !" At his impotent 
malice we could not choose but smile, and 
shook our staff at the blockhead, as since at 
many a greater blockhead even than he have 
we shook — and more than shook our Crutch. 
But as through " pastures green and quiet 
waters by," we pursued, from sunrise to sun- 
set, our uncompanioned way, some sweet spot, 
surrounded by heather, and shaded by fern, 
would woo us to lie down on its bosom, and 
enjoy a visionary sleep ! Then it was that 
the mountains confidentially told us their 
names — and we got them all by heart; for 
each name characterized its owner by some of 
his peculiar and prominent qualities — as if 
they had been one and all christened by poets 
baptizing them from a font 

" Translucent, pure, 
With touch ethereal of heaven's fiery rod." 

O happy pastor of a peaceful flock ! Thou 
hast long gone to thy reward! One — two — 
three — four successors hast thou had in that 
manse — (now it too has been taken down and 
the plough gone over it) — and they all did their 
duty ; yet still is thy memory fragrant in the 
glen ; for deeds like thine " smell sweet, and 
blossom in the dust!" Under heaven, we 
owed our life to thy care of us in a brain fever. 
Sometimes thy face would grow grave, never 
angry, at our sallies — follies — call them what 
you will, but not sins. And methinks we hear 
the mild old man somewhat mournfully say- 
ing, "Mad boy ! out of gladness often cometh 
grief— out of mirth misery ; but our prayers, 



THE MOORS. 



121 



when thou leavest us, shall be, that never, 
never, may such be thy fate !" Were those 
prayers heard in heaven and granted on earth 1 
We ask our heart in awe, but its depths are 
silent, and make no response. 

But is it our intention to sit scribbling here 
all day? Our fancy lets our feet enjoy their 
sinecure, and they stretch themselves out in 
indolent longitude beneath the Tent-table, 
while we are settled in spirit, a silent thought, 
on the battlements of our cloud-castle on the 
summit of Cruachan. What a prospect ! Our 
cloud-castle rests upon a foundation of granite 
precipices ; and down along their hundred 
chasms, from which the eye recoils, we look on 
Loch-Etive bearing on its bosom stationary — 
so it seems in the sunshine — one snow-white 
sail ! What brings the creature there — and on 
w^hat errand may she be voyaging up the un- 
inhabited sea-arm that stretches away into the 
uninhabited mountains ? Some poet, perhaps, 
steers her — sitting at the helm in a dream, and 
allowing her to dance her own way, at her own 
will, up and down the green glens and hills of 
the foam- crested waves — a swell rolling in the 
beauty of light and music for ever attendant 
on her, as the Sea-mew — for so we choose to 
name her — pursues her voyage — now on water, 
and now, as the breezes drop, in the air — ele- 
ments at times undistinguishable, as the sha- 
dows of the clouds and of the mountains mingle 
their imagery in the sea. Oh ! that our head, 
like that of a spider, were all studded with 
eyes — that our imagination, sitting in the 
"palace of the soul," (a noble expression, 
borrowed or stolen by Byron from Waller,) 
might see all at once all the sights from centre 
to circumference, as if all rallying around her 
for her own delight, and oppressing her with 
the poetry of nature — a lyrical, and elegiac, an 
epic, or a tragic strain. Now the bright blue 
water-gleams enchain her vision, and are felt 
to constitute the vital, the essential spirit of 
the whole — Loch Awe land-serpent, large as 
serpent of the sea, lying asleep in the sun, 
with his burnished skin all bedropt with scales 
of silver and of gold — the lands of Lorn, mot- 
tled and speckled with innumerous lakelets, 
where fancy sees millions of water-lilies riding 
at anchor in bays where the breezes have fallen 
asleep — Oban, splendid among the splendours 
of that now almost motionless mediterranean, 
the mountain-loving Linnhe Loch — Jura, Isla, 
Colonsay, and nameless other islands, floating 
far and wide away on — on to Coll and Tiree, 
drowned beneath the faint horizon. But now 
all the eyes in our spider-head are lost in one 
blaze of undistinguishable glory; for the 
whole Highlands of Scotland are up in their 
power against us — rivers, lochs, seas, islands, 
cliffs, clouds, and mountains. The pen drops 
from our hand, and here we are — not on the 
battlements of the air-palace on the summit of 
Cruachan — but sitting on a tripod or three- 
legged stool at the mouth of our Tent, with our 
MS. before us, and at our right hand a quech 
of Glenlivet, fresh drawn from yonder ten-gal- 
lon cask — and here's to the health of " Honest 
men and bonny lasses" all over the globe. 

So much for description — an art in which 
the Public (God bless her, where is she now — 
16 



and shall we ever see her more?) has been 
often pleased to say that we excel. But let us 
off' to the Moor. Piro ! Ponto ! Basta ! to your 
paws, and O'Bronte, unfurl your tail to heaven. 
Pointers ! ye are a noble trio. White, O Pon- 
to ! art thou as the foam of the sea. Piro ! thou 
tan of all tans ! red art thou as the dun-deer's 
hide, and fleet as he while thou rangest the 
mountain brow, now hid in heather, and now 
re-appearing over the rocks. Waur hawk, 
Basta ! — for finest-scented through be thy scar 
let nostrils, one bad trick alone hast thou ; and 
whenever that gray wing glances from some 
pillar-stone in the wilderness, headlong goest 
thou, lawless negro ! But behave thyself to- 
day, Basta! and let the kestrel unheeded sail 
or sun herself on the cliff. As for thee, 
O'Bronte ! the sable dog with the star-bright 
breast, keep thou like a serf at our heels, and 
when our course lies over the fens and marshes, 
thou mayst sweep like a hairy hurricane among 
the flappers, and haply to-day grip the old drake 
himself, and with thy fan-like tail proudly 
spread in the wind, deposit at thy master's feet, 
with a smile, the monstrous mallard. 

But in what direction shall we go, callants — 
towards what airt shall we turn our faces 1 
Over yonder cliffs shall we ascend, and de- 
scend into Glen-Creran, where the stony re- 
gions that the ptarmigan love melts away into 
miles of the grousey heather, which, ere we 
near the salmon-haunted Loch so beautiful, 
loses itself in woods that mellow all the heights 
of Glen Ure and Fasnacloigh with silvan 
shades, wherein the cushat coos, and the roe 
glides through the secret covert ? Or shall we 
away up by Kinloch-Etive, and Melnatorran, 
and Mealgayre, into the Solitude of Streams, 
that from all their lofty sources down to the far- 
distant Loch have never yet brooked, nor will 
they ever brook, the bondage of bridges, save 
of some huge stone flung across some chasm, 
or trunk of a tree — none but trunks of trees 
there, and all dead for centuries — that had 
sunk down where it grew, and spanned the 
flood that eddies round it with a louder music 1 
Wild region ! yet not barren ; for there are 
cattle on a thousand hills, that, wild as the 
very red-deer, toss their heads as they snuff 
the feet of rarest stranger, and form round him 
in a half-alarmed and half-threatening crescent. 
There flocks of goats — outliers from Dalness 
— may be seen as if following one another on 
the very air, along the lichen-stained cliffs that 
frown down unfathomed abysses — and there is 
frequent heard the whirring of the gorcock's 
wing, and his gobble gathering together his 
brood, scattered by the lightning that in its 
season volleys through the silence, else far 
deeper than that of death ;— for the silence of 
death — that is of a churchyard filled with tombs 
— is nothing to the austerity of the noiselessness 
that prevails under the shadow of Unimore 
and Attchorachen, with their cliffs on which 
the storms have engraven strange hieroglyphi- 
cal inscriptions, which, could but we read them 
wisely, would record the successive ages of the • 
Earth, from the hour when fire or flood firs; 
moulded the mountains, down to the very mo- 
ment that we are speaking, and with small 
steel-hammer roughening the edges of our 



122 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



flints that they may fail not to murder. Or 
shall we away down by Armaddy, where the 
Fox-Hunter dwells — and through the woods of 
Inverkinglass and Achran, "double, double, 
toil and trouble" overcome the braes of Ben- 
anea and Mealcopucaich, and drop down like 
two unwearied eagles into Glen-Scrae, with a 
peep in the distance of the young tower of 
Dalmally, and the old turrets of Kilchurn 1 
Rich and rare is the shooting-ground, Hamish, 
which by that route lies between this our Tent 
and the many tarns that freshen the wilder- 
nesses of Lochanancrioch. Say the word — tip 
the wink — tongue on your cheek — up with 
your forefinger — and we shall go ; for hark, 
Hamish, our chronometer chimes eight — a 
long day is yet before us — and what if we be 
benighted 1 We have a full moon and plenty 
of stars. 

All these are splendid schemes — but what 
say you, Hamish, to one less ambitious, and 
better adapted to Old Kit ? Let us beat all the 
best bits down by Armaddy — the Forge — Gieno, 
and Inveraw. We may do that well in some 
six or seven hours — and then let us try that 
famous salmon-cast nearest the mansion — 
(you have the rods?) — and if time permit, an 
hour's trolling in Loch Awe, below the Pass 
of the Brander, for one of those giants that 
have immortalized the names of a Maule, a 
Goldie, and a Wilson. Mercy on us, Shelty, 
what a beard ! You cannot have been shaved 
since Whitsunday — and never saw we such 
lengthy love-locks as those dangling at your 
heels. But let us mount, old Surefoot — mulish 
in naught but an inveterate aversion to all 
stumbling. And now for the heather ! But 
are you sure, gents, that we are on ? 

And has it come to this ! Where is the 
grandson of the desert-born 1 

Thirty years ago, and thou Filho da Puta 
wert a flyer ! A fencer beyond compare ! 
Dost thou remember how, for a cool five 
hundred, thou clearedst yon canal in a style 
that rivalled that of the red-deer across the 
chasms of Cairngorm 7 All we had to do, was 
to hold hard and not ride over the hounds, 
when, running breast-high on the rear of Rey- 
nard, the savage pack wakened the welkin 
with the tumultuous hubbub of their death-cry, 
and whipper-in and huntsmen were flogging 
on their faltering flight in vain through fields 
and forests flying behind thy heels that glanced 
and glittered in the frosty sunshine. What 
steed like thee in all Britain at a steeple chase 1 
Thy hoofs scorned the strong stubble, and 
skimmed the deep fallows, in which ail other 
horses — heavy there as dragoons' — seemed 
fetlock-bound, or laboured on in staggerings, 
soil-sunk to the knees. Ditches dwindled 
beneath thy bounds, and rivulets were as rills; 
or if in flood they rudely overran their banks, 
into the spate plunged thy sixteen hands and 
a-half height, like a Polar monster leaping 
from an iceberg into the sea, and then lifting up 
thy small head and fine neck and high shoul- 
der, like a Draco from the weltering waters, 
with a few pr;ud pawings to which the re- 
covered greensward rang, thy whole bold, 
bright-brown bulk reappeared on the bank, 
crested by old Christopher, and after one short 



snorting pause, over the miry meadows — tan- 
tivy ! — tantivy ! — away ! away ! away ! 

Oh ! son of a Rep ! were not those glorious 
days? But Time has laid his finger onus 
both, Filho ; and never more must we two be 
seen by the edge of the cover, 

" When first the hunter's startling horn is heard 
Upon the golden hills." 

'Tis the last learned and highest lesson of 
Wisdom, Filho, in man's studious obedience 
to Nature's laws — to know when to stop in his 
career. Pride, Passion, Pleasure, all urge him 
on ; while Prudence, Propriety, Peace, cry 
halt! halt! halt! That mandate we have 
timeously obeyed; and having, unblamed we 
hope, and blameless, carried on the pastimes 
of youth into manhood, and even through the 
prime of manhood to the verge of age — on that 
verge, after some few farewell vagaries up 
and down the debatable land, we had the reso- 
lution to drop our bridle-hand, to unloosen the 
spurs from our heels, and to dismount from 
the stateliest and swiftest steed, Filho, that 
ever wafted mortal man over moor and moun- 
tain like a storm-driven cloud. 

You are sure we are on, Hamish 1 And that 
he will not run away 1 Come, come, Surefoot, 
none of your funking ! A better mane for 
holding on by we could not imagine. Pure 
Shelty you say, Hamish ? From his ears we 
should have suspected his grandfather of 
having been at least a Zebra. 



FLIGHT SECOND— THE COVES OF 
CRUACHAN. 

Comma — semicolon — colon — full-point ! All 
three scent-struck into attitude steady as stones, 
That is beautiful. Ponto straight as a rod — 
Piro in a slight curve — and Basta a perfect 
semicircle. O'Bronte ! down on your marrow- 
bones. But there is no need, Hamish, either 
for hurry or haste. On such ground, and on 
such a day, the birds will lie as if they were 
asleep. Hamish, the flask ! — not the powder- 
flask, you dotterel — but the Glenlivet. 'Tis 
thus we always love to steady our hand for 
the first shot. It gives a fine feeling to the 
forefinger. 

Ha ! the heads of the old cock and hen, like 
snakes, above the heather — motionless, but 
with glancing eyes — and preparing for the 
spring. Whirr — whirr — whirr — bang — bang 
tapsillery — tapsalteery — thud — thud — thud ! 
Old cock and old hen both down, Hamisli. 
No mean omen, no awkward augury, of the 
day's sport. Now for the orphan family — 
marked ye them round 

"The swelling instep of the mountain's foot?" 

"Faith and she's the teevil's nainsel — that is 
she — at the shutin' ; for may I tine ma mull, 
and never pree sneeshin' mair, if she hae na 
richt and left murdered fowre o' the creturs !" 
— " Four ! — why we only covered the old peo- 
ple; but if younkers will cross, 'tis their own 
fault that they bite the heather." — "They're 
a' fowre spewin', sir, except ane — and her's 
head's aff— and she's jumpin' about waur nor 



THE MOORS. 



123 



ony o' them, wi' her bluidy neck. I wuss she 
mayna tak to her wings again, and owre the 
knowe. But ca' ih that great toozy ootlandish 
dowg, sir, for he's devourin' them — see hoo 
he's ningin' them, first ane and then anither, 
outowre his shoother, and keppin' them afore 
they touch the gain in his mooth, like a 
mountebank wi' a shoor o' oranges !" — " Ham- 
ish, are they bagged?" — " Ou aye." — "Then 
away to windward, ye sons of bitches — Hea- 
vens, how they do their work !" 

Up to the time of our grand climacteric we 
loved a wide range — and thought nothing of 
describing and discussing a circle of ten miles 
diameter in a day, up to our hips in heather. 
But for these dozen or twenty years bypast, 
we have preferred a narrow beat, snugly seat- 
ed on a sheltry, and pad the hoof on the hill 
no more. Yonder is the kind of ground we 
now love — for \v\\y should an old man make a 
toil of a pleasure? 'Tis one of the many 
small coves belonging to Glen-Etive, and looks 
down from no very great elevation upon the 
Loch. Its bottom - , and sides nearly halfway 
up, are green pastures, sheep-nibbled as smooth 
as a lawn — and a rill, dropping in diamonds 
from the cliffs at its upper end, betrays itself, 
where the water is invisible, by a line of still 
livelier verdure. An old dilapidated sheepfold 
is the only building, and seems to make the 
scene still more solitary. Above the green 
pastures are the richest beds and bosoms of 
heather ever bees murmured on — and above 
them nothing but bare cliffs. A stiff breeze 
is now blowing into this cove from the sea- 
loch ; and we shall slaughter the orphan fami- 
ly at our leisure. 'Tis probable they have 
dropped — single bird after single bird — or in 
twos and threes — all along the first line of 
heather that met their flight; and if so, we 
shall pop them like partridges in turnips. 
Three points in the game ! Each dog, it is 
manifest, stands to a different lot of feathers ; 
and we shall slaughter them, without dis- 
mounting, seriatbn. No, Hamish — we must 
dismount — give us your shoulder — that will 
do. The Crutch — now we are on our pins. 
Take a lesson. Whirr ! Bang ! Bag num- 
ber one, Harnish. Ay, that is right, Ponto — 
back Basta. Ditto, ditto. Now Ponto and 
Basta both back Piro — right and left this time 
— and not one of the brood will be left to cheep 
of Christopher. Be ready — attend us with the 
other double-barrel. Whirr ! Bang — bang — 
bang — bang ! What think you of that, you son 
of the mist? There is a shower of feathers ! 
They are all at sixes and sevens upon the 
greensward at the edge of the heather. Seven 
birds at four shots ! The whole family is now 
disposed of — fath.er, mother, and eleven chil- 
dren. If such fire still be in the dry wood, 
what must it have been in the green % Let us 
lie down in the sheltered shade of the mossy 
walls of the sheepfold — take a drop of Glen- 
livet — and philosophize. 

Hollo! Hamish, who are these strange, sus- 
picious-looking strangers thitherwards-bound, 
as hallan-shaker a set as may be seen on an 
August day? Ay, ay, we ken the clan. A 
week's residence to a man of gumption gives 
an insight into a neighbourhood. Unerring 



physiognomists and phrenologists are we, and 
what with instinctive, and what with intuitive 
knowledge, we keek in a moment through all 
disguise. He in the centre of the group is 
the stickit minister — on his right stands the 
drunken dominie — on his left the captain, who 
in that raised look retains token of delirium 
ircmens — the land-louper behind him is the 
land-measurer, who would be well to do in 
the world were he " monarch of all he sur- 
veyed," — but has been long out at elbows, and 
his society not much courted since he was 
rude to the auld wife at the time the gudeman 
was at the peats. That fine tall youth, the 
widow's son in Gleno, and his friend the 
Sketcher, with his portfolio under his arm, 
are in indifferent company, Hamish ; but who, 
pray, may be the phenomenon in plush, with 
bow and arrow, and tasseled horn, bonnet 
jauntily screwed to the sinister, glass, stuck 
in socket, and precisely in the middle of his 
puckered mouth a cigar. You do not say so 
— a grocer's apprentice from the Gorbals ! 

No need of confabulating there, gemmen, on 
the knowe — come forward and confront Chris- 
topher North. We find we have been too se- 
vere in our strictures. After all, they are not 
a bad set of fellows, as the world goes — im- 
prudence must not be too harshly condemned 
— Shakspeare taught us to see the soul of good 
in things evil — these two are excellent lads ; 
and, as for impertinence, it often proceeds 
from mauvais honte, and with a glance we shall 
replace the archer behind his counter. 

How goes it, Cappy ? Rather stiff in the 
back, minister, with the mouth of the fowling- 
piece peeping out between the tails of your 
long coat, and the butt at the back of your 
head, by way of bolster? You will find it 
more comfortable to have her in hand. That 
bamboo, dominie, is well known to be an air- 
gun. Have you your horse-pistol with you 
to-day, surveyor ? Sagittarius, think you, you 
could hit, at twoscore, a haystack flying ? Sit 
down, gentlemen, and let's have a crack. 

So ho! so ho! so ho! We see her black 
eyes beneath a primrose tuft on the brae. In 
spring all one bank of blossoms ; but 'tis 
barish now and sheep-nibbled, though few 
eyes but our own could have thus detected 
there the brown back of Mawkin. Dominie, 
your Bamboo. Shoot her sitting? Fie fie — 
no, no. Kick her up, Hamish. There she 
goes. We are out of practice at single ball 
— but whizz ! she has it between the shoul 
ders. Head over heels she has started an 
other — why, that's funny — give us your bow 
and arrow you green grocer — twang ! within 
an inch of her fud. Gentlemen, suppose we 
tip you a song. Join all in the chorus. 

THE TOWCHEr's SOXG. 

When I was boon apprentice 

In vamous Zoomerzet Shere, 
Lauks ! I zerved my meester truly 

Vor neerly zeven yeer, 
I7ntil I took to Poaching, 
Az you zhall quickly heer. 
Cho. Ou ! 'twas ma delyght m a shiny night, 
In the zeason of the year: 
Ou ! 'twas ma delysrht in a shiny night, 
In the zeason of the year. 

Az me and ma coomerades 
Were zetting on a snere, 



124 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



Lauks! the Geamkeepoors caem oop to uz; 

Vor them we did na kere, 
'Case we could fight or wrestle, lads, 
Jump over ony wheere. 
Cho. Ou ! 'twas ma delyght in a shiny night, 
In the zeazon of the year : 
Ou ! 'twas ma delyght'in a shiny night, 
In the zeazon of the year. 

Az we went oot wan morning 
Atwixt your vive and zeex, 
We cautcht a heere alive, ma lads, 

We found un in a deetch ; 
We popt un in a bag, ma lads, 

We yoiten off vor town, 
We took un to a neeghboor's hoose, 

And we zold un vor a crown. 
We zold un vor a crown, ma lads, 
But a wont tell ye wheere. 
Cho. Ou ! 'twas ma delyght in a shiny night, 
In the zeazon of the year: 
Ou ! 'twas ma delyght in a shiny night, 
In the zeazon of the year. 

Then here's success to Powching, 

Vor A doos think it feere, 
And here's look to ere a gentleman 

Az wans to buy a heere, 
And here's to ere a geamkeepoor, 
Az woona zell it deere. 
Cho. Ou : 'twas ma delyght in a shiny night, 
In the zeazon of the year : 
Ou ! 'twas ma delyght in a shiny night, 
In the zeazon of the year. 

The Presbytery might have overlooked your 
fault, Mac, for the case was not a flagrant one, 
and you were willing, we understand, to make 
her an honest woman. Do you think you 
could recollect one of your sermons? In 
action and in unction you had not your su- 
perior in the Synod. Do give us a screed 
about Nimrod or Nebuchadnezzar. No dese- 
cration in a sermon — better omitted, we grant, 
prayer and psalm. Should you be unable to 
reproduce an entire discourse, yet by dove- 
tailing — that is, a bit from one and a bit from 
another — surely you can be at no loss for half 
an hour's miscellaneous matter — heads and 
tails. Or suppose we let you off with a View 
of the Church Question. You look glum and 
shake your head. Can you, Mac, how can 
you resist that Pulpit ? 

Behold in that semicircular low-browed cliff, 
backed by a range of bonny green braes dip- 
ping down from the hills that do themselves 
come shelving from the mountains, what ap- 
pears at first sight to be a cave, but is merely 
a blind window, as it were, a few feet deep, 
arched and faced like a beautiful work of ma- 
sonry, though chisel never touched it, nor 
man's hand dropped the line along the living 
stone thus wrought by nature's self, who often 
shows us, in her mysterious processes, re- 
semblances of effects produced by us her 
children on the same materials by our more 
most elaborate art. It is a very pulpit, and 
that projecting slab is the sounding-board. 
That upright stone in front of it, without the 
aid of fancy, may well be thought the desk. 
To us sitting here, this spot of greensward is 
the floor ; the sky that hangs low, as if it loved 
it, the roof of the sanctuary; nor is there any 
harm in saying, that we, if we choose to think 
so, are sitting in a kirk. 

Shall we mount the pulpit by that natural 
flight of steps, and, like a Sedgwick or a Buck- 
land, with a specimen in one hand, and before 
our eyes mountains whose faces the scars of 
thunder have intrenched, tell you how the 
globe, after formation on formation, became 



fit residence for new-created man, and habit 
able no more to flying dragons 1 Or shall we, 
rather, taking the globe as we find it, speculate 
on the changes wrought on its surface by us, 
whom God gave feet to tread the earth, and 
faces to behold the heavens, and souls to soar 
into the heaven of heavens, on the wings of 
hope, aspiring through temporal shades to 
eternal light ? 

Brethren ! — The primary physical wants of 
the human being are food, clothing, shelter, 
and defence. To supply these he has invented 
all his arts. Hunger and thirst cultivate the 
earth. Fear builds castles and embattles cities. 
The animal is clothed by nature against cold 
and storm, and shelters himself in his den. 
Man builds his habitation, and weaves his 
clothing. With horns, or teeth, or claws, the 
strong and deadly weapons with which nature 
has furnished them, the animal kinds wage 
their war ; he forges swords and spears, and 
constructs implements of destruction that will 
send death almost as far as his eye can mark 
his foe, and sweep down thousands together. 
The animal that goes in quest of his food, that 
pursues or flies from his enemy, has feet, or 
wings, or fins ; but man bids the horse,' the 
camel, the elephant, bear him, and yokes them 
to his chariot. If the strong animal would 
cross the river, he swims. Man spans it with 
a bridge. But the most powerful of them all 
stands on the beach and gazes on the ocean. 
Man constructs a ship, and encircles the globe. 
Other creatures must traverse the element na- 
ture has assigned, with means she has furnish- 
ed. He chooses his element, and makes his 
means. Can the fish traverse the waters? So 
can he. Can the bird fly the air? So can he. 
Can the camel speed over the desert ? He shall 
bear man as his rider. 

"That's beautifu'!" "Tuts, haud your 
tongue, and tak a chow. There's some shag." 
"Is he gauhto be lang, Hamish ?" "Wheesht! 
you micht as weel be speaking in the kirk." 

But to see what he owes to inventive art, 
we should compare man, not with inferior 
creatures, but with himself, looking over the 
face of human society, as history or observa- 
tion shows it. We shall find him almost 
sharing the life of brutes, or removed from 
them by innumerable differences, and incalcu- 
lable degrees. In one place we see him har- 
bouring in caves, naked, living, we might 
almost say, on prey, seeking from chance his 
wretched sustenance, food which he eats just 
as he finds it. He lives like a beggar on the 
alms of nature. Turn to another land, and 
you see the face of the earth covered with the 
works of his hand — his habitation, wide-spread- 
ing stately cities — his clothing and the orna- 
ments of his person culled and fashioned from 
the three kingdoms of nature. For his food 
the face of the earth bears him tribute ; and 
the seasons and changes of heaven concur 
with his own art in ministering to his board. 
This is the difference which man has made in 
his own condition by the use of his intellectual 
powers, awakened and goaded on by the ne- 
cessities of his physical, constitution. 

The various knowledge, the endlessly multi- 
plied observation, the experience and reason- 



THE MOORS. 



125 



ings of man added to man, of generation fol- 
lowing generation, which were required to 
bring to a moderate state of advancement the 
great primary arts subservient to physical life 
— the arts of providing food, habitation, cloth- 
ing, and defence, we are utterly unable to con- 
ceive. We are born to the knowledge, which 
was collected by the labours of many ages. 
How slowly were those arts reared up which 
still remain to us ! How many which had la- 
boriously been brought to perfection, have 
been displaced by superior invention, and fall- 
en into oblivion ! Fenced in as we are by the 
works of our predecessors, we see but a small 
part of the power of man contending with the 
difficulties of his lot. But what a wonderful 
scene would be opened before our eyes, with 
what intense interest should we look on, if we 
could indeed behold him armed only with his 
own implanted powers, and going forth to con- 
quer the creation ! If we could see him be- 
ginning by subduing evils, and supplying 
painful wants — going on to turn those evils 
and wants into the means of enjoyment — and 
at length, in the wantonness and pride of his 
power, filling his existence with luxuries ; — if 
we could see him from his first step, in the un- 
tamed though fruitful wilderness, advancing to 
subdue the soil, to tame and multiply the herds 
—from bending the branches into a bower, to 
fell the forest and quarry the rock — seizing 
into his own hands the element of fire, direct- 
ing its action on substances got from the 
bowels of the earth — fashioning wood, and 
stone, and metal, to the will of his thought- 
searching the nature of plants to spin their 
fibres, or with their virtues to heal their dis- 
eases ; — if we could see him raise his first 
cities, launch his first ship, calling the winds 
and waters to be his servants, and to do his 
work— changing the face of the earth— form- 
ing lakes and rivers — joining seas, or stretch- 
ing the continent itself into the dominion of 
the sea ; — if we could do all this in imagina- 
tion, then should we understand something of 
what man's intellect has done for his physical 
life, and what the necessities of his physical 
life have done in forcing into action all the 
powers of his intelligence. 

But there are still higher considerations 
arising from the influence of man's physical 
necessities on the destiny of the species. It is 
this subjugation of natural evil, and this cre- 
ated dominion of art, that prepares the earth to 
be the scene of his social existence. His hard 
conquest was not the end of his toil. He has 
conquered the kingdom in which he was to 
dwell in his state. The full unfolding of his 
moral powers was only possible in those states 
of society which are thus brought into being 
by his conflict with all his physical faculties 
against all the stubborn powers of the material 
universe ; for out of the same conquest Wealth 
is created. In this progress, and by means 
thus brought into action, society is divided 
into classes. Property itself, the allotment of 
the earth, takes place, because it is the bosom 
of the earth that yields food. That great foun- 
dation of the stability of communities is thus 
connected with the same necessity ; and in the 
same progress, and out of the same causes, 



arise the first great Laws by which society is 
held together in order. Thus that whole won- 
derful development of the Moral Nature of 
man, in all those various forms which fill up 
the history of the race, in part arises out of, 
and is always intimately blended with, the la- 
bours to which he has been aroused by these 
first great necessities of his physical nature. 
But had the tendency to increase his numbers 
been out of all proportion to the means pro- 
vided by nature, and infinitely multipliable by 
art, for the subsistence of human beings, how 
could this magnificent march have moved on 1 
Hence we may understand on what ground 
the ancient nations revered so highly, and 
even deified the authors of the primary arts of 
life. They considered not the supply of the 
animal wants merely; but they contemplated 
that mighty change in the condition of man- 
kind to which these arts have given origin. It 
is on this ground, that they had raised the cha- 
racter of human life, that Virgil assigns them 
their place in the dwellings of bliss, among de- 
voted patriots and holy priests, among those 
whom song or prophecy had inspired, among 
those benefactors of the race whose names 
were to live for ever, giving his own most 
beautiful expression to the common sentiment 
of mankind. 

"Hie manus ob patriam pugnando vulnera passi, 
Quique sacevdotes casti, dum vita manebat, 
Quique pii vates, et Phoebo digna locuti, 
Inventas aut qui vitam excoluere per artes, 
Quique sui memores alios fecere merendo ; 
Omnibus his nivea cinguntur tempora vitta." 

"That's Latin for the minister and the domi- 
nie." " Wheesht ! Heard you ever the like o' 
that] Though I dinna understaun a word o't, 
it gars me a' grue." " Wheest ! wheesht ! — 
we maun pit him intil Paurliment" — '•' Rather 
intil the General Assembly, to tussle wi' the 
wild men." " He's nae Moderate, man ; and 
gin I'm no sair mistaen, he's a wild man him- 
sel, and wull uphaud the Veto." "Wheesht! 
wheesht ! wheesht !" 

True, that in savage life men starve. But 
is that any proof that nature has cursed the 
race with a fatal tendency to multiply beyond 
the means of subsistence? None whatever. 
Attend for a little to this point. Of the real 
power of the bodily appetites for food, and the 
sway they may attain over the moral nature 
of the mind, we, who are protected by our 
place among the arrangements of civil society 
from greatly suffering under it, can indeed 
form no adequate conception. Let us not now 
speak of those dreadful enormities which, in 
the midst of dismal famine, are recorded to 
have been perpetrated by civilized men, when 
the whole moral soul, with all its strongest affec- 
tions and instinctive abhorrences, has sunk 
prostrate under the force of that animal suffer- 
ing. But the power of which we speak, as 
attained by this animal feeling, subsists habi- 
tually among whole tribes and nations. It is 
that power which it acquires over the mind 
of the savage, who is frequently exposed to 
suffer its severity, and who hunts for himself 
the food with which he is to appease it. Com- 
pare the mind of the human being as you are 
accustomed to behold him, knowing the return 
of this sensation only as a grateful incitement 
12 



126 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



to take the ready nourishment which is spread 
for his repast, with that of his fellow-man 
bearing through the lonely woods the gnaw- 
ing pang that goads him to his prey. Hunger 
is in his heart; hunger bears along his un- 
fatiguing feet; hunger lies in the strength of 
his arm; hunger watches in his eye; hunger 
listens in his ear; as he couches down in his 
covert, silently waiting the approach of his ex- 
pected spoil, this is the sole thought that fills 
his aching breast — "I shall satisfy my hunger !" 
When his deadly aim has brought his victim 
to the ground, this is the thought that springs 
up as he rushes to seize it, " I have got food 
for my hungry soul!" What must be the 
usurpation of animal nature here over the 
whole man ! It is not merely the simple pain 
as if it were the forlornness of a human creature 
bearing about his famishing existence in help- 
lessness and despair — though that, too, is indeed 
a true picture of some stales of our race; but 
here is not a suffering and sinking wretch — 
he is a strong hunter, and puts forth his 
strength fiercely under the urgency of this 
passion. All his might in the chase, all pride 
of speed, and strength, and skill — all thoughts 
of long and hard endurance — all images of 
perils past — all remembrances and all fore- 
sight — are gathered on that one strong and 
keen desire — are bound down to the sense of 
that one bitter animal want. These feelings 
recurring day by day in the sole toil of his life, 
bring upon his soul a vehemence and power 
of desire in this object, of which we can have 
no conception, till he becomes subjected to 
hunger as to a mighty animal passion — a 
passion such as it rages in those fierce animal 
kinds which it drives with such ferocity on 
their prey. He knows hunger as the wolf 
knows it — he goes forth with his burning heart, 
like the tiger to lap blood. But turn to man 
in another condition to which he has been 
brought by the very agency of his physical on 
his intellectual and moral being! How far 
removed is he now from that daily contention 
with such evils as these ! How much does he 
feel himself assured against them by belong- 
ing to the great confederacy of social life ! 
How much is it veiled from his eyes by the 
many artificial circumstances in which the 
satisfaction of the want is involved! The 
work in which he labours the whole day — on 
which his eyes are fixed and his hands toil — 
is something altogether unconnected with his 
own wants — connected with distant wants and 
purposes of a thousand other men in which he 
has no participation. And as far as it is a 
work of skill, he has to fix his mind on ob- 
jects and purposes so totally removed from 
himself, that they all tend still more to sever 
his thoughts from his own necessities : and 
thus it is that civilization raises his moral 
character, when it protects almost every hu- 
man being in a country from that subjection to 
this passion, to which even noble tribes are 
bound down in the wildernesses of nature. 

" It's an awful thing hunger, Hamish, sure 
aneugh; but I wush he was dune; for that 
vice o' his sing-sanging is makin' me unco 
sleepy — and ance I fa' owre, I'm no easy 
wauKenin'. But wha's that snorrin' V 



Yet it is the most melancholy part of all 
such speculation, to observe what a wide 
gloom is cast over them by this severe neces- 
sity, which is nevertheless the great and con- 
stant cause of the improvement of their condi- 
tion. It is not suffering alone — for that they 
maybe inured to bear, — but the darkness of 
the understanding, and the darkness of the 
heart, which comes on under the oppression 
of toil, that is miserable to see. Our fellow- 
men, born with the same spirit as ourselves, 
seem yet denied the common privileges of that 
spirit. They seem to bring faculties into the 
world that cannot be unfolded, and powers of 
affection and desire which not their fault but 
the lot of their birth will pervert and degrade. 
There is a humiliation laid upon our nature 
in the doom which seems thus to rest upon a 
great portion of our species, which, while it 
requires our most considerate compassion for 
those who are thus depressed, compels us to 
humble ourselves under the sense of our own 
participation in the nature from which it flows. 
Therefore, in estimating the worth, the virtue 
of our fellow men, whom Providence has 
placed in a lot that yields to them the means, 
and little more than the means, of supporting 
life in themselves and those born of them, let 
us never forget how intimate is the necessary 
union between the wants of the body and the 
thoughts of the soul. Let us remember, that 
over a great portion of humanity, the soul is 
in a struggle for its independence and power 
with the necessities of that nature in which it 
is enveloped. It has to support itself against 
sickening, or irritating, or maddening thoughts 
inspired by weariness, lassitude, want, or the 
fear of want. It is chained down to the earth 
by the influence of one great and constant 
occupation — that of providing the means of its 
mortal existence. When it shows itself shook 
and agitated, or overcome in the struggle, 
what ought to be the thoughts and feelings of 
the wise for poor humanity ! When, on the 
other hand, we see nature preserving itself 
pure, bold, and happy amidst the perpetual 
threatenings or assaults of those evils from 
which it cannot fly, and though oppressed by 
its own weary wants, forgetting them all in 
that love which ministers to the wants of 
others — when we see the brow wrinkled and 
drenched by incessant toil, the body in the 
power of its prime bowed down to the dust, 
and the whole frame in which the immortal 
spirit abides marked, but not dishonoured, by 
its slavery to fate — and when, in the midst of 
all this ceaseless depression and oppression, 
from which man must never hope to escape 
on earth, we see him still seeking and still 
finding joy, delight, and happiness in the finer 
affections of his spirtiual being, giving to the 
lips of those he loves the scanty morsel earned 
by his own hungry and thirsty toil, purchas- 
ing by sweat, sickness, and fever, Education 
and Instruction and Religion to the young 
creatures who delight him who is starving for 
their sakes, resting with gratitude on that day, 
whose return is ever like a fresh fountain to 
his exhausted and weary heart, and preserving 
a profound and high sense of his own im- 
mortality among all the earth-born toils and 



THE MOORS. 



127 



troubles that would in vain chain him down 
to the dust, — when we see all this, and think 
of all this, we feel indeed how rich may be the 
poorest of the poor, and learn to respect the 
moral being of man in its triumphs over the 

f>ower of his physical nature. But we do not 
earn to doubt or deny the wisdom of the 
Creator. We do not learn from all the strug- 
gles, and all these defeats, and all these vic- 
tories, and all these triumphs, that God sent 
us his creatures into this life to starve, be- 
cause the air, the earth, and the waters have 
not wherewithal to feed the mouths that gape 
for food through all the elements ! Nor do 
we learn that want is a crime, and poverty a 
sin — and that they who would toil, but cannot, 
and they who can toil, but have no work set 
before them, are intruders at Nature's table, 
and must be driven by those who are able to 
pay for their seats to famine, starvation, and 
death — almost denied a burial ! — Finis. Amen. 
Often has it been our lot, by our conversa- 
tional powers, to set the table on a snore. The 
more stirring the theme, the more soporific the 
sound of our silver voice. Look there, we be- 
seech you ! In a small spot of " stationary sun- 
shine," lie Hamish, and Surefoot, andO'Bronte, 
and Ponto, and Piro, and Basta, all sound 
asleep ! Dogs are troubled sleepers — but these 
four are now like the dreamless dead. Horses, 
too, seem often to be witch-ridden in their 
sleep. But at this moment Surefoot is stretch- 
ed more like a stone than a s'helty in the land 
of Nod. As for Hamish, were he to lie so 
braxy-like by himself on the hill, he would be 
awakened by the bill of the raven digging into 
his sockets. We are Morpheus and Orpheus 
in one incarnation — the very Pink of Poppy — 
the true spirit of Opium— of Laudanum the 
concentrated Essence — of the black Drop the 
Gnome. 

Indeed, gentlemen, you have reason to be 
ashamed of yourselves — but where is the awk- 
ward squad 1 Clean gone. They have stolen 
a march on us, and while we have been preach- 
ing they have been poaching — sans mandate 
of the Marquis and Monzie. We may catch 
them ere close of day; and, if they have a 
smell of slaughter, we shall crack their 
sconces with our crutch. No apologies, Ha- 
mish — 'tis only making the matter worse ; but 
we expected better things of the dogs. O'Bronte! 
fie ! fie ! sirrah. Your sire would not have 
fallen asleep during a speech of ours — and 
such a speech! — he would have sat it out 
without winking — at each more splendid pas- 
sage testifying his delight by a yowl. Leap 
over the Crutch, you reprobate, and let us*see 
thee scour. Look at him, Hamish, already 
beckoning to us on his hurdis from the hill-top. 
Let us scale those barriers — and away over the 
table-land between that summit and the head 
of Gleno. No sooner said than done, and here 
we are on the level— such a level as the ship 
finds on the main sea, when in the storm-lull 
she rides up and down the green swell, before 
the tradewinds that cool the tropics. The sur- 
face of this main land-sea is black in the gloom, 
and green in the glimmer, and purple in the 
light, and crimson in the sunshine. Oh, never 
•ooks nature so magnificent 



"As in this varying and uncertain weather, 
When gloom and glory force themselves together, 
When calm seems stormy, and tempestuous night 
At day's meridian lowers like noon of night !" 

Whose are these fine lines 1 Hooky Walker, 



Doj 



Down — down — down — be 



stonelike, Shelty ! — and Hamish, sink thou 
into the heather like a lizard; for if these old 
dim eyes of ours may be in aught believed, 
yonder by the birches stands a Red-Deer snuf- 
fing the east wind ! Hush! hush! hush! He 
suspects an enemy in that airt — but death 
comes upon him with stealthy foot, from the 
west ; and if Apollo and Diana — the divinities 
we so long have worshipped — be now propi- 
tious — his antlers shall be entangled in the 
heather, and his hoofs beat the heavens. Ha- 
mish, the rifle! A tinkle as of iron, and a hiss 
accompanying the explosion — and the King of 
the Wilderness, bounding up into the air with 
his antlers higher than ever waved chieftain's 
plume, falls down stone-dead where he stood; 
for the blue-pill has gone through his vitals, 
and lightning itself could hardly have wither- 
ed him into more instantaneous cessation of 
life! 

He is an enormous animal. What antlers ! 
Roll him over, Hamish, on his side! See, up 
to our breast, nearly, reaches the topmost 
branch. He is what the hunter of old called 
a " Stag of Ten." His eye has lost the flash 
of freedom — the tongue that browsed the 
brushwood is bitten through by the clenched 
teeth — the fleetness of his feet has felt that 
fatal frost — the wild heart is hushed, Hamish, 
— tame, tame, tame ; and there the Monarch 
of the Mountains — the King of the Cliffs — the 
Grand Lama of the Glens — the Sultan of the 
Solitudes — the Dey of the Deserts — the Royal 
Ranger of the Woods and Forests — yea, the 
very Prince of the Air and Thane of Thundei 
— "shorn of all his beams," lies motionless as 
a dead Jackass by the wayside, whose hide waa 
not thought worth the trouble of flaying by his 
owners the gipsies ! " To this complexion has 
he come at last" — he who at dawn had bor- 
rowed the wings of the wind to carry him 
across the cataracts ! 

A sudden pang shoots across our heart. 
What right had we to commit this murder ] 
How, henceforth, shall we dare to hold up our 
head among the lovers of liberty, after having 
thus stolen basely from behind on him the 
boldest, brightest, and most beautiful of all her 
sons ! We who for so many years have been 
just able to hobble, and no more, by the aid of 
the Crutch — who feared to let the heather-bent 
touch our toe, so sensitive in its gout — We, 
the old and impotent, all last winter bed-ridden, 
and even now seated like a lameter on a 
shelty, strapped by a patent buckle to a saddle 
provided with a pummel behind as well as be- 
fore — such an unwieldy and weary wretch as 
We—" fat, and scant of breath" — and with our 
hand almost perpetually pressed against our 
left side, when a coughing-fit of asthma brings 
back the stitch, seldom an absentee — to as- 
sassinate that bed-deer, whose flight on earth 
could accompany the eagle's in heaven ; and 
not only to assassinate him, but, in a moral 
Vein, to liken his carcass to that of a Jackass ! 
It will not bear further reflection ; so, Hamish, 



128 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



out with your whinger, and carve him a dish 
fit for the gods — in a style worthy of Sir Tris- 
trem, Gil Morice, Robin Hood, or Lord Ra- 
nald. No ; Jet him lie till nightfall, when we 
shall be returning from Inveraw with strength 
sufficient to bear him to the Tent. 

But hark, Hamish, to that sullen croak from 
the cliff! The old raven of the cove already 
scents death — 

"Sagacious of his quarry from afar!" 

But where art thou, Hamish] Ay, yonder is 
Hamish, wriggling on his very belly, like an 
adder, through the heather to windward of the 
croaker, whose nostrils, and eyes, and bill, are 
now all hungrily fascinated, and as it were 
already fastened into the very bowels of the 
beast. His days are numbered. That sly ser- 
pent, by circuitous windings insinuating his 
limber length through among all obstructions, 
has ascended unseen the drooping shoulder of 
the cliff, and now cautiously erects his crest 
within a hundred yards or more of the unsus- 
pecting savage, still uttering at intervals his 
sullen croak, croak, croak ! Something crum- 
bles, and old Sooty, unfolding his huge wings, 
lifts himself up like Satan, about to sail away 
for a while into another glen ; but the rifle 
rings among the rocks — the lead has broken 
his spine — and look! how the demon, head 
over heels, goes tumbling down, down, many 
hundred fathoms, dashed to pieces and im- 
paled on the sharp-pointed granite ! Ere night- 
fall the bloody fragments will be devoured by 
his mate. Nothing now will disturb the car- 
cass of the deer. No corbies dare I enter the 
cove where the raven reigned; the hawk pre- 
fers grouse to venison, and so does the eagle, 
who, however, like a good Catholic as he is — 
this is Friday — has gone out to sea for a fish 
dinner, which he devours to the music of the 
waves on some isle-rock. Therefore lie there, 
dethroned king ! till thou art decapitated; and 
ere the moon wanes, that haunch will tower 
gloriously on our Tent-table at the Feast of 
Shells. 

What is your private opinion, O'Bronte, of 
the taste of Red-deer blood 1 Has it not a 
wild twang on the tongue and palate, far pre- 
ferable to sheep's-head 1 You are absolutely 
undergoing transfiguration into a deer-hound ! 
With your fore-paws on the flank, your tail 
brandished like a standard, and your crimson 
flews (thank you, Shepherd, for that word) 
licked by a long lambent tongue red as crimson, 
while your eyes express a fierce delight never 
felt before, and a stifled growl disturbs the star 
on your breast — just as you stand now, 
O'Bronte, might Edwin Landseer rejoice to 
paint thy picture, for which, immortal image 
of the wilderness, the Duke of Bedford would 
not scruple to give a draft on his banker for 
one thousand pounds ! 

Shooting grouse after red-deer is, for a while 
at first, felt to be like writing an anagram in a 
lady's album, after having given the finishing 
touch to a tragedy or an epic poem. 'Tis like 
taking to catching shrimps in the sand with 
one's toes, on one's return from Davis' Straits 
in a whaler that arrived at Peterhead with six- 
teen fish, each calculated at ten ton of oil. 



Yet, 'tis strange how the human soul can 
descend, pleasantly at every note, from the top 
to the bottom of passion's and imagination's 
gamut. 

A Tarn — a Tarn ! with but a small circle of 
unbroken water in the centre, and all the rest 
of its shallowness bristling, in every bay, with 
reeds and rushes, and surrounded, all about 
the mossy flat, with marshes and quagmires ! 
What a breeding-place — " procreant cradle" 
for water fowl ! Now comes thy turn, O'Bronte 
— for famous is thy name, almost as thy sire's, 
among the flappers. Crawl down to leeward, 
Hamish, that you may pepper them — should 
they take to flight overhead to the loch. Sure- 
foot, taste that greensward, and you will find 
it sweet and succulent. Dogs, heel — heel ! — 
and now let us steal, on our Crutch, behind 
that knoll, and open a sudden fire on the swim- 
mers, who seem to think themselves out of 
shot at the edge of that line of water-lilies ; but 
some of them will soon find themselves mis- 
taken, whirling round on their backs, and 
vainly endeavouring to dive after their friends 
that disappear beneath the agitated surface 
shot-swept into spray. Long Gun ! who oft to 
the forefinger of Colonel Hawker has swept 
the night-harbour of Poole all alive with 
widgeons, be true to the trust now reposed in 
thee by Kit North ! And though these be 
neither geese, nor swans, nor hoopers, yet, send 
thy leaden shower among them feeding in their 
play, till all the a*ir be afloat with specks, as if 
at the shaking of a feather-bed that had burst 
the ticking, and the tarn covered with sprawl- 
ing mawsies and mallards, in death-throes 
among the ducklings ! There it lies on its 
rest — like a telescope. p No eye has discovered 
the invention — keen as those wild eyes are of 
the plowterers on the shallows. Lightning 
and thunder! to which all the echoes roar. 
But we meanwhile are on our back; for of all 
the recoils that ever shook a shoulder, that 
one was the severest — but 'twill probably cure 

our rheumatism and Well done — nobly, 

gloriously done, O'Bronte ! Heaven and earth, 
how otter-like he swims ! Ha, Hamish ! you 
have cut off the retreat of that airy voyager — 
you have given it him in his stern, Hamish — 
and are reloading for the flappers. One at a 
time in your mouth, O'Bronte ! Put about 
with that tail for a rudder — and make for the 
shore. What a stately creature ! as he comes 
issuing from the shallows, and, bearing the old 
mallard breast high, walks all dripping along 
the greensward, and then shakes from his 
curled ebony the flashing spray-mist. He 
gives us one look as we crown the knoll, and 
then in again with a spang and a plunge far 
into the tarn, caring no more for the reeds than 
for so many winlestraes, and, fast as a sea- 
serpent, is among the heart of the killed and 
wounded. In unerring instinct he always 
seizes the dead — and now a devil's dozen lie 
along the shore. Come hither, O'Bronte, and 
caress thy old master. Ay — that showed a 
fine feeling — did that long shake that bedrizzled 
the sunshine. Put thy paws over our shoul 
ders, and round our neck, true son of thy sire 
— oh ! that he were but alive, to see and share 
thy achievements ; but indeed, two such dogs, 



THE MOORS. 



129 



living together in their prime at one era, would 
have been too great glory for this sublunary 
canine world. Therefore Sirius looked on thy 
sire with an evil eye, and in jealousy — 

"Tantsene animis ctelestibus irce !" 
growled upon some sinner to poison the Dog 
of all Dogs, who leapt up almost to the ceiling 
of the room where he slept — our own bed-room 
— under the agony of that accursed arsenic, 
gave one horrid howl, and expired. Methinks 
we know his murderer — his eye falls when it 
meets ours on the Street of Princes ; and let 
him scowl there but seldom — for though 'tis 
but suspicion, this fist, O'Bronte, doubles at 
the sight of the miscreant — and some day, im- 
pelled by wrath and disgust, it will smash his 
nose flat with the other features, till his face is 
a pancake. Yea! as sure as Themis holds 
her balance in the skies, shall the poisoner be 
punished out of all recognition by his parents, 
and be disowned by the Irish Cockney father 
that begot him, and the Scotch Cockney mo- 
ther that bore him, as he carries home a tripe- 
like countenance enough to make his paramour 
the scullion miscarry, as she opens the door to 
him on the fifth flat of a common stair. But 
we are getting personal, O'Bronte, a vice ab- 
horrent from our nature. 

There goes our Crutch, Hamish, whirling 
aloft in the sky a rainbow flight, even 
like the ten-pound hammer from the fling of 
George Scougal at the St. Ronan's games. Our 
gout is gone — so is our asthma — eke our 
rheumatism — and, like an eagle, we have re- 
newed our youth. There is hop, step, and 
jump, for you, Hamish — we should not fear, 
young and agile as you are, buck, to give you 
a yard. But now for the flappers. Pointers 
all, stir your stumps and into the water. This 
is rich. Why, the reeds are as full of flappers 
as of frogs. If they can fly, the fools don't 
know it. Why, there is a whole musquito-fleet 
of yellow boys, not a month old. What a pro- 
lific old lady must she have been, to have kept 
on breeding till Juty. There she sits, cower- 
ing, just on the edge of the reeds, uncertain 
whether to dive or fly. By the creak and cry 
of the cradle of , thy first-born, Hamish, spare 
the plumage on her yearning and quaking 
breast. The little yellow images have all 
melted away, and are now, in holy cunning of 
instinct, deep down beneath the waters, shift- 
ing for themselves among the very mud at the 
bottom of the reeds. By and by they will be 
floating with but the points of their bills above 
the surface, invisible among the air-bells. The 
parent duck has also disappeared ; the drake 
you disposed of, Hamish, as the coward was 
lifting up his lumbering body, with fat doup 
and long neck in the air, to seek safer skies. 
We male creatures — drakes, ganders, and men 
alike — what are we, when affection pleads, in 
comparison with females ! In our passions, 
we are brave, but these satiated, we turn upon 
our heel and disappear from danger, like das- 
tards. But doves, and ducks, and women, are 
fearless in affection, to the very death. There- 
fore have we all our days, sleeping or waking, 
loved the sex, virgin and matron, nor would we 
hurt a hair of their heads, gray or golden, for 
all else that shines beneath the sun. 
17 



Not the best practice this in the world, cer- 
tainly, for pointers— and it may teach them 
bad habits on the hill; but, in some situations, 
all dogs and all men are alike, and cross them 
as you will, not a breed but shows a taint of 
original sin, when under a temptation suffi- 
ciently strong to bring it out. Ponto, Piro, and 
Basta, are now, according to their abilities, all 
as bad as O'Bronte — and never, to be sure, 
was there such a worrying in this wicked 
world. But now we shall cease our fire, and 
leave the few flappers that are left alive to 
their own meditations. Our conduct for the 
last hour must have seemed to them no less 
unaccountable than alarming; and something 
to quack over during the rest of the season. 
Well, we do not remember ever to have seen a 
prettier pile of ducks and ducklings. Hamish, 
take census. ■ What do you say — two score 1 
That beats cockfighting. Here's a hank of 
twine,- Hamish, tie them all together by the 
legs, and hang them, in two divisions of equal 
weights, over the crupper of Surefoot. 



FLIGHT THIRD— STILL LIFE. 

We have been sufficiently slaughterous for 
a man of our fine sensibilities and moderate 
desires, Hamish ; and as, somehow or other, 
the scent seems to be beginning not to lie well 
— yet the air cannot be said to be close and 
sultry either — we shall let Brown Bess cool 
herself in both barrels — relinquish, for an hour 
or so, our seat on Shelty, and, by way of a 
change, pad the hoof up that smooth ascent, 
strangely left stoneless — an avenue positively 
looking as if it were artificial, as it stretches 
away, with its beautiful green undulations, 
among the blocks ; for though no view-hunter, 
we are, Hamish, what in fine language is call- 
ed a devout. w r orshipper of Nature, an enthu- 
siast in the sublime ; and if Nature do not 
show us something worth gazing at when we 
reach yonder altitudes, she must be a gray de- 
ceiver, and we shall never again kneel at her 
footstool, or sing a hymn in her praise. 

The truth is, we have a rending headache, 
for Bess has been for some hours on the kick, 
and Surefoot on the jog, and our exertions in 
the pulpit were severe — action, Hamish, ac- 
tion, action, being, as Demosthenes said some 
two or three thousand years ago, essential to 
oratory; and you observed how nimbly we 
kept changing legs, Hamish, how strenuously 
brandishing arms, throughout our discourse- 
saving the cunning pauses, thou simpleton, 
when, by way of relief to our auditors, we 
were as gentle as sucking-doves, and folded up 
our w r ings as if about to go to roost, whereas 
we were but meditating a bolder flight — about 
to soar, Hamish, into the empyrean. Over and 
above all that, we could not brook Tickler's 
insolence, who, about the sma' hours, chal- 
lenged us, you know, quech for quech ; and 
though we gave him a fair back-fall, yet we 
suffered in the tuilzie, and there is at this mo- 
ment a throbbing in our temples that threatens 
a regular brain-fever. We burn for an air- 
bath on the mountain-top. Moreover, we ate 



J 30 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



seized with a sudden desire for solitude — to be 
plain, we are getting sulky ; so ascend, Sure- 
foot, Hamish, and be off with the pointers — 
O'Bronte goes with us — north-west, making a 
circumbendibus round the Tomhans, where 
Mhairhe M'Intyre lived seven years with the 
fairies ; and in a couple of hours or so, you 
will find us under the Merlin Crag. 

We offer to walk any man of our age in 
Great Britain. But what is our age? Con- 
found us if we know within a score or two. 
Yet we cannot get rid of the impression that 
we are under ninety. However, as we seek 
no advantage, and give no odds, we challenge 
the octogenarians of the United Kingdom — 
fair toe and heel — a twelve-hour match — for 
love, fame, and a legitimate exchequer bill for 
a thousand. Why these calves of ours would 
look queer, we confess, on the legs of a Leith 
porter; but even in our prime they were none 
of your big vulgar calves, but they handled 
like iron — now more like butter. There is 
still a spring in our instep ; and our knees, 
sometimes shaky, are to-day knit as Pan's and 
neat as Apollo's. Poet we may not be, but 
Pedestrian we are ; with Wordsworth we could 
not walk along imaginative heights, but, if not 
grievously out of our reckoning, on the turn- 
pike road we could keep pace with Captain 
Barclay for a short distance — say from Dun- 
dee to Aberdeen. 

Oh ! Gemini ! but we are in high spirits. 
Yes — delights there indeed are, which none 
but pedestrians know. Much — all depends on 
the character of the wanderer; he must have 
known what it is to commune with his own 
thoughts and feelings, and be satisfied with 
them even as with the converse of a chosen 
friend. Not that he must always, in the soli- 
tudes that await him, be in a meditative mood, 
for ideas and emotions will of themselves arise, 
and he will only have to enjoy the pleasures 
which his own being spontaneously affords. 
It would indeed be a hopeless thing, if we were 
always to be on the stretch for happiness. In- 
tellect, Imagination, and Feeling, all work of 
their own free-will, and not at the order of any 
taskmaster. A rill soon becomes a stream — a 
stream a river — a river a loch — and a loch a 
sea. So it is with the current within the spirit. 
It carries us along, without either oar or sail, 
increasing in lepth, breadth, and swiftness, 
yet all the wnile the easy work of our own 
wonderful minds. While we seem only to see 
or hear, we are thinking and feeling far be- 
' yond the mere notices given by the senses ; 
aud years afterwards we find that we have 
been laying up treasures, in our most heedless 
moments, of imagery, and connecting together 
trains of thought that arise in startling beauty, 
almost without cause or any traceable origin. 
The Pedestrian, too, must not only love his 
own society, but the society of any other hu- 
man beings, if blameless and not impure, 
among whom his lot may for a short season 
be cast. He must rejoice in all the forms and 
show? of life, however simple they may be, 
however humble, however low ; and be able 
1o find food for his thoughts beside the ingle 
of the loneliest hut, where the inmates sit with 
lew words, and will rather be spoken to than 



speak to the stranger. In such places he will 
be delighted — perhaps surprised — to find in 
uncorrupted strength all the primary elements 
of human character. He will find that his 
knowledge may be wider than theirs, and bet- 
ter ordered, but that it rests on the same foun- 
dation, and comprehends the same matter. 
There will be no want of sympathies between 
him and them ; and what he knows best, and 
loves most, will seldom fail to be that also 
which they listen to with greatest interest, and 
respecting which there is the closest commu- 
nion between the minds of stranger and host. 
He may know the course of the stars accord- 
ing to the revelation of science — they may 
have studied them only as simple shepherds, 
" whose hearts were gladdened" walking on 
the mountain-top. But they know — as he does 
— who sowed the stars in heaven, and that 
their silent courses are all adjusted by the 
hand of the Most High. 

Oh ! blessed, thrice blessed years of youth ! 
would we choose to live over again all your 
forgotten and unforgotten nights and days ! 
Blessed, thrice blessed we call you, although, 
as we then felt, often darkened almost into in- 
sanity by self-sown sorrows springing out of 
our restless soul. No, we would not again 
face such troubles, not even for the glorious 
apparitions that familiarly haunted us in glens 
and forests, on mountains and on the great sea. 
But all, or nearly all that did once so grievous- 
ly disturb, we can lay in the depths of the past, 
so that scarcely a ghastly voice is heard, a 
ghastly face beheld ; while all that so charmed 
of yore, or nearly all, although no longer the 
daily companions of our life, still survive to be 
recalled at solemn hours, and with a "beauty 
still more beauteous" to reinvest the earth, 
which neither sin nor sorrow can rob of its 
enchantments. We can still travel with the 
solitary mountain-stream from its source to the 
sea, and see new visions at every vista of its 
winding waters. The waterfall flows not with 
its own monotonous voice of a day or an hour, 
but like a choral anthem pealing with the 
hymns of many years. In the heart of the 
blind mist on the mountain-ranges we can now 
sit alone, surrounded by a world of images, 
over which time holds no power but to conse- 
crate or solemnize. Solitude we can deepen 
by a single volition, and by a single volition 
let in upon it the stir and noise of the world 
and life. Why, therefore, should we complain, 
or why lament the inevitable loss or change that 
time brings with it to all that breathe ? Be- 
neath the shadow of the tree we can yet re- 
pose, and tranquillize our spirit by its rustle, 
or by the " green light" unchequered by one 
stirring leaf. From sunrise to sunset, Ave can 
lie below the old mossy tower, till the dark- 
ness that shuts out the day, hides not the vi- 
sions that glide round the ruined battlements. 
Cheerful as in a city can we traverse the 
houseless moor; and although not a ship be 
on the sea, we can set sail on the wings of 
imagination, and when wearied, sink down on 
savage or serene isle, and let drop our anchor 
below the moon and stars. 

And 'tis well we are so spiritual ; for the 
senses are of no use here, and we must draw 



THE MOORS. 



131 



for amusement on our internal sources. A 
day-like night we have often seen about mid- 
summer, serenest of all among the Hebrides; 
but a night-like day, such as this, ne'er before 
fell on us, and we might as well be in the 
Heart o' Mid-Lothian. Tis a dungeon, and a 
dark one — and we know not for what crime we 
have been condemned to solitary confinement. 
Were it mere mist we should not mind; but 
the gloom is palpable — and makes resistance 
to the hand. We did not think clouds capa- 
ble of such condensation — the blackness may 
be felt like velvet on a hearse. Would that 
something would rustle — but no — all is breath- 
lessly still, and not a wind dares whistle. If 
there be any thing visible or audible hereabout, 
then are we stone-blind and. stone-deaf. We 
have a vision ! 

See ! a great City in a mist ! All is not 
shrouded — at intervals something huge is 
beheld in the sky — what we know not, tower, 
temple, spire, dome, or a pile of nameless 
structures — one after the other fading away, or 
sinking and settling down into the gloom that 
grows deeper and deeper like a night. The 
stream of life seems almost hushed in the 
blind blank — yet you hear ever and anon, now 
here, now there, the slow sound of feet moving 
to their own dull echoes, and lo ! the Sun 

" Looks through the horizontal misty air, 
Shorn of his beams," 

like some great ghost. Ay, he looks! does he 
not? straight on your face, as if you two were 
the only beings there — and were held looking 
at each other in some strange communion. 
Surely you must sometimes have felt that 
emotion, when the Luminary seemed no longer 
luminous, but a dull-red brazen orb, sick unto 
the death — obscure the Shedder of Light and 
the Giver of Life lifeless ! 

The Sea has sent a tide-borne wind to the 
City, and you almost start in wonder to behold 
all the heavens clear of clouds, (how beautiful 
was the clearing!) and bending in a mighty 
blue bow, that brightly overarches all the 
brightened habitations of men ! The spires 
shoot up into the x sky — the domes tranquilly rest 
there — all the roofs glitter as with diamonds, 
all the white walls are lustrous, save where, 
here and there, some loftier range of buildings 
hangs its steadfast shadow o'er square or street, 
magnifying the city, by means of separate 
multitudes of structures, each town-like in 
itself, and the whole gathered together by the 
outward eye, and the inward imagination, 
worthy indeed, of the name of Metropolis. 

Let us sit down on this bench below the 
shadow of the Parthenon. The air is now so 
rarefied, that you can see not indistinctly the 
figure of a man on Arthur's Seat. The Calton, 
though a city hill — is as green as the Carter 
towering over the Border-forest. Not many 
years ago, no stone edifice was on his unvio- 
lated verdure — he was a true rural Mount, 
where the lassies bleached their claes, in a 
pure atmosphere, aloof from the city smoke 
almost as the sides and summit of Arthur's 
Seat. Flocks of sheep might have grazed 
here, had there been enclosures, and many 
milch-cows. But in their absence a pastoral 



character was given to the Hill by its green 
silence, here and there broken by the songs 
and laughter of those linen-bleaching lassies, 
and by the arm-in-arm strolling of lovers in 
the morning light or the evening shade. Here 
married people use to walk with their children, 
thinking and feeling themselves to be in the 
country; and here elderly gentlemen, like our- 
selves, with gold-headed canes, or simple 
crutches, mused and meditated on the ongoings 
of the noisy lower world. Such a Hill, so 
close to a great City, yet undisturbed by it, and 
embued at all times with a feeling of sweeter 
peace, because of the immediate neighbour- 
hood of the din and stir of which its green re- 
cess high up in the blue air never partook, 
seems now, in the mingled dream of imagina- 
tion and memory, to have been a super-urban 
Paradise ! But a city cannot, ought not to be, 
controlled in its growth ; the natural beauty of 
this hill has had its day; now it is broken all 
round with wide walks, along which you might 
drive chariots a-breast ; broad flights of stone- 
stairs lead up along the once elastic brae-turf; 
and its bosom is laden with towers and tem- 
ples, monuments and mausoleums. Along one 
side, where hanging gardens might have been, 
magnificent as those of the old Babylon, 
stretches the macadamized Royal Road to 
London, flanked by one receptacle for the quiet 
dead, and by another for the unquiet living — a 
church-yard and a prison dying away in a 
bridewell. But, making amends for such 
hideous deformities, with front nobly looking 
to the clifis, over a dell of dwellings seen 
dimly through the smoke-mist, stands, sacred 
to the Muses, an Edifice that might have 
pleased the eye of Pericles! Alas, immedi- 
ately below, one that would have turned the 
brain of Palladio ! Modern Athens indeed ! 
Few are the Grecians among thy architects ; 
those who are not Goths are Picts — and the 
king himself of the Painted People designed 
Nelson's Monument. 

But who can be querulous on such a day] 
Weigh all its defects, designed and undesigned, 
and is not Edinburgh yet a noble city] Ar- 
thur's Seat ! how like a lion ! The magnifi- 
cent range of Salisbury Crags, on which a 
battery might be built to blow the whole inha- 
bitation to atoms ! Our friend here, the Cal- 
ton, with his mural crown ! Our Castle on 
his Cliff! Gloriously hung round with national 
histories along all his battlements ! Do they 
not embosom him in a style of grandeur 
worthy, if such it be, of a " City of Palaces V 
Call all things by their right names, in heaven 
and on earth. Palaces they are not — nor are 
they built of marble ; but they are stately 
houses, framed of stone from Craig-Leith 
quarry, almost as pale as the Parian ; and when 
the sun looks fitfully through the storm, or as 
now, serenely through the calm, richer than 
Parian in the tempestuous or the peaceful 
light. Never beheld we the city wearing such 
a majestic metropolitan aspect. 

" Ay, proudly fling thy white arms lo the sea, 
Queen of the unconquer'd North!" 

How near the Frith! Gloriously does it 
supply the want of a river. It is a river, though 



132 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



seeming and sweeping into, the sea; but a 
river that man may never bridge; and though 
still now as the sky, we wish you saw it in its 
magnificent madness, when brought on the 
roarings of the stormful tide 

"Breaks the long wave that at the Pole began." 

Coast-cities alone are Queens. All inland 
are but Tributaries. Earth's empiry belongs 
to the Power that sees its shadow in the sea. 
Two separate Cities, not twins — but one of 
ancient and one of modern birth— ^how harmo- 
niously, in spite of form and features charac- 
teristically different, do they coalesce into one 
Capital! This miracle, methinks, is wrought 
by the Spirit of Nature on the World of Art. 
Her great features subdue almost into simi- 
larity a Whole constructed of such various 
elements, for "it is all felt to be kindred with 
those guardian cliffs. Those eternal heights 
hold the Double City together in an amity that 
breathes over both the same national look — the 
impression of the same national soul. In the 
olden time, the city gathered herself almost 
under the very wing of the Castle; for in her 
heroic heart she ever heard, unalarmed but 
watchful, the alarums of war, and that cliff, 
under heaven, was on earth the rock of her 
salvation. But now the foundation of that 
rock, whence yet the tranquil burgher hears 
the morning and the evening bugle, is beau- 
tified by gardens that love its pensive shadow, 
for it tames the light to flowers by rude feet 
untrodden, and yielding garlands for the brows 
of perpetual peace. Thence elegance and 
grace arose ; and while antiquity breathes over 
that wilderness of antique structures pic- 
turesquely huddled along the blue line of sky 
— as Wilkie once finely said, like the spine of 
some enormous animal; yet all along this side 
of that unrivered and mound-divided dell, now 
shines a new world of radiant dwellings, de- 
claring by their regular but not monotonous 
magnificence, that the same people, whose 
"perfervid genius" preserved them by war un- 
humbled among the nations in days of dark- 
ness, have now drawn a strength as invincible, 
from the beautiful arts which have been cul- 
tivated by peace in the days of light. 

And is the spirit of the inhabitation there 
worthy of the place inhabited 1 We are a 
Scotsman. And the great English Moralist 
has asked, where may a Scotsman be found 
who loves not the honour or the glory of his 
country better than truth ? We are that Scots- 
man — though for our country would we die. 
Yet dearer too than life is to us the honour — 
if not the glory of our country ; and had we a 
thousand lives, proudly would we lay them all 
down in the dust rather than give — or see 
given — one single stain 

" Unto the silver cross, to Scotland dear," 

on which as yet no stain appears save those 
glorious weather-stains, that have fallen on its 
folds from the clouds of war and the storms of 
battle. Sufficient praise to the spirit of our 
land, that she knows how to love, admire, and 
rival — not in vain — the spirit of high-hearted 
and heroic England. Long as we and that 
other noble Isle 



" Set as an emerald in the casing sea," 

in triple union breathe as one, 

"Then come against us the whole ivorld in arms, 
And we will meet them !" 

What is a people without pride ? But let them 
know that its root rests on noble pillars; and 
in the whole range of strength and stateliness, 
what pillars are there stronger and statelier 
than those glorious two — Genius and Liberty! 
Here valour has fought — here philosophy has 
meditated — here poetry has sung. Are not 
our living yet as brave as our dead? All 
wisdom has not perished with the sages to 
whom we have built or are building monu- 
mental tombs. The muses yet love to breathe 
the pure mountain-air of Caledon. And have 
we not amongst us one myriad-minded man, 
whose name, without offence to that high-priest 
of nature, or his devoutest worshippers, may 
flow from our lips even when they utter that 
of Shakspeajie ? 

The Queen of the North has evaporated — 
and we again have a glimpse of the Highlands. 
But where's the Sun ? We know not in what 
airt to look for him, for who knows but it may 
now be afternoon? It is almost dark enough 
for evening — and if it be not far on in the day, 
then we shall have thunder. What saith our 
repeater ? One o'clock. Usually the brightest 
hour of all the twelve— but any thing but 
bright at this moment. Can there be an eclipse 
going on — an earthquake at his toilette — or 
merely a brewing of storm ? Let us consult 
our almanac. No eclipse set down for to-day 
—the old earthquake dwells in the neighbour- 
hood of Comrie, and has never been known to 
journey thus far north — besides he has for 
some years been bed-ridden ; argal, there is 
about to be a storm. What a fool of a land- 
tortoise were we to crawl up to the top of a 
mountain, when we might have taken our 
choice of half-a-dozen glens with cottages in 
them every other mile, and a village at the end 
of each with a comfortable Change-house! 
And up which of its sides, pray, was it that we 
crawled ? Not this one— for it is as steep as 
a church — and we never in our life peeped 
over the brink of an uglier abyss. Ay, Mister 
Merlin, 'tis wise of you to be flying home into 
your crevice — put your head below your wing, 
and do cease that cry. — Croak! croak! croak! 
Where is the sooty sinner? We hear he is 
on the wing — but he either sees or smells us, 
probably both, and the horrid gurgle in his 
throat is choked by some cloud. Surely that 
was the sughing of wings ! A Bird ! alighting 
within fifty yards of us— and, from his mode 
of folding his wings— an Eagle ! This is too 
much— within fifty yards of an Eagle on his 
own mountain-top. Is he blind? Age dark- 
ens even an Eagle's eyes — but he is not old, 
for his plumage is perfect— and we see the 
glare of his far-keekers as he turns his head 
over his shoulder and regards his eyry on the 
cliff. We would not shoot him for a thousand 
a-year for life. Not old— how do we know 
that? Because he is a creature who is young 
at a hundred — so says Audubon — Swainson — 
our brother James — and all shepherds. Little 
suspects he who is lying so near him with his 



THE MOORS. 



133 



Crutch. Our snuffy suit is of a colour with I 
the storm-stained granite — and if he walk this 
way he will get a buffet. And he is walking 
this way — his head up, and his tail down — not 
hopping like a filthy raven — but one foot before 
the other — like a man — like a King. We do 
not altogether like it — it is rather alarming — 
he may not be an Eagle after all — but some- 
thing worse — " Hurra ! ye Sky-scraper ! Chris- 
topher is upon you ! take that, and that, and 
that" — all one tumbling scream, there he goes, 
Crutch and all, over the edge of the cliff. 
Dashed to death — but impossible for us to get 
the body. Whew! dashed to death indeed! 
There he wheels, all on fire, round the thunder- 
gloom. Is it electric matter in the atmosphere 
— or fear and wrath that illumine his wings ] 

We wish we were safe down. There is no 
wind here yet — none to speak of; but there is 
wind enough, to all appearance, in the region 
towards the west. The main body of the 
clouds is falling back on the reserve — and ob- 
serving that movement the right wing deploys 
— as for the left it is broken, and its retreat 
will soon be a flight. Fear is contagious — the 
whole army has fallen into irremediable disor- 
der — has abandoned its commanding position 
— and in an hour will be self-driven into the 
sea. We call that a Panic. 

Glory be to the corps that covers the retreat. 
We see now the cause of that retrograde 
movement. In the north-west "far off its 
coming shone," and "in numbers without 
number numberless," lo! the adverse Host! 
Thrown out in front the beautiful rifle brigade 
comes fleetly on, extending in open order along 
the vast plain between the aerial Pine-moun- 
tains to yon Fire-cliffs. The enemy marches 
in masses — the space between the divisions 
now widening and now narrowing — and as 
sure as we are alive we hear the sound of 
trumpets. The routed army has rallied and 
re-appears — and, hark, on the extreme left a 
cannonade. Never before had the Unholy 
Alliance a finer park of artillery — and now its 
fire opens from the great battery in the centre, 
and the hurly-burly is general far and wide 
over the whole field of battle. 

But these lead drops dancing on our bonnet 
tell us to take up our crutch and be off— for 
there it is sticking — and by and by the waters 
will be in flood, and we may have to pass a 
night on the mountain. Down we go. 

We do not call this the same side of the 
mountain we crawled up 1 There, all was pur- 
ple except what was green — and we were 
happy to be a heather-legged body, occasionally 
skipping like a grasshopper on turf. Here, all 
rocks save stones. Get out of the way, ye 
ptarmigans. We hate shingle from the bottom 

of our oh dear! oh dear! but this is 

painful — sliddering on shingle away down 
what is any thing but an inclined plane — feet 
foremost — accompanied with rattling debris — 
at railroad speed — every twenty yards or so 
dislodging a stone as big as one's-self, who in- 
stantly joins the procession, and there they go 
hopping and jumping along with us, some be- 
fore, some at each side, and, we shudder to 
think of it some behind — well somersetted 
over our head, thou Grey Wacke — but mercy 



on us, and forgive us our sins, for if this lasts, 
in another minute we are all at the bottom of 
that pond of pitch. Take care of vourself, 
O'Bronte ! 

Here we are— sitting ! How we were brought 
to assume this rather uneasy posture we do 
not pretend to say. We confine ourselves to 
the fact. • Sitting beside a Tarn. Our escape 
appears to have been little less than miracu- 
lous, and must have been mainly owing, under 
Providence, to the Crutch. Who's laughing] 
'Tis you, you old Witch, in hood and cloak, 
crouching on the cliff, as if you were warm- 
ing your hands at the fire. Hold your tongue 
— and you may sit there to all eternity if you 
choose — you cloud-ridden hag ! No — there 
will be a blow-up some-day — as there evident- 
ly has been here before now; but no more 
Geology — from the tarn, who is a 'tarnation 
deep 'un, runs a rill, and he offers to be our 
guide down to the Low Country. 

Why, this does not look like the same day. 
No gloom here — but a green serenity — not so 
poetical perhaps, but, in a human light, far 
preferable to a " brown horror." No sulphure- 
ous smell — " the air is balm." No sultriness 
— how cool the circulating medium ! In our 
youth, when we had wings on our feet — and 
were a feathered Mercury — Cherub we never 
were nor Cauliflower — by flying, in our weather- 
wisdom, from glen to glen, we have made one 
day a whole week — with, at the end, a Sabbath. 
For all over the really mountaineous region of 
the Highlands, every glen has its own inde- 
scribable kind of day — all vaguely compre- 
hended under the One Day that may happen 
to be uppermost; and Lowland meteorologists, 
meeting in the evening after a long absence — 
having, perhaps, parted that morning — on com- 
paring notes lose their temper, and have been 
even known to proceed to extremities in de- 
fence of facts well-established of a most con- 
tradictory and irreconcilable nature. 

Here is an angler fishing with the fly. In 
the glen beyond that range he would have used 
the minnow — and in the huge hollow behind 
our friends to the South-east, he might just as 
well try the bare hook — though it is not uni- 
versally true that trouts don't rise when there 
is thunder. Let us see how he throws. What 
a cable ! Flies ! Tufts of heather. Hollo, 
you there ; friend, what sport 1 What sport, 
we say 1 No answer ; are you deaf] Dumb ] 
He flourishes his flail and is mute. Let us try 
what a whack on the back may elicit. Down 
he flings it, and staring on us with a pair of 
most extraordinary eyes, and a beard like a 
goat, is off like a shot. Alas ! we have fright- 
ened the wretch out of his few poor wits, and 
he may kill himself among the rocks. He is 
indeed an idiot — an innocent. We remember 
seeing him near this very spot forty years ago 
— and he was not young then — they often live 
to extreme old age. No wonder he was terri- 
fied — for we are duly sensible of the outre tout 
ensemble we must have suddenly exhibited in 
the glimmer that visits those weak and red 
eyes — he is an albino. That whack was rash, 
to say the least of it — our Crutch was too 
much for him ; but we hear him whining — and 
moaning — and, good God ! there he is on his 
M 



134 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



knees with hands claspt in supplication — " Din- 
na kill me — dinna kill me — 'am silly — 'am silly 
— and folk say 'am auld — auld — auld." The 
harmless creature is convinced we are not 
going to kill him— takes from our hand what he 
calls his fishing rod and tackle — and laughs like 
an owl. " Ony meat — ony meat — ony meat V 3 
"Yes, innocent, there is some meat in this 
wallet, and you and we shall have ourdinner." 
"Ho ! ho ! ho ! ho ! a smelled, a smelled ! a 
can say the Lord's Prayer." " What's your 
name, my man 1" "Daft Dooggy the Haveril." 
"Sit down, Dugald." A sad mystery all this 
— a drop of water on the brain will do it — so 
wise physicians say, and we believe it. For 
all that, the brain is not the soul. He takes 
the food with a kind of howl — and carries it 
away to some distance, muttering "a aye eats 
by mysel' !" He is saying grace ! And now 
he is eating like an animal. Tis a saying of 
old, " Their lives are hidden with God !" 

This lovely little glen is almost altogether 
new to us : yet so congenial its quiet to the 
longings of our heart, that all at once it is 
familiar to us as if we had sojourned here for 
days — as if that cottage were our dwelling- 
place — and we had retired hither to await the 
close. Were we never here before — in the 
olden and golden time 1 Those dips in the 
summits of the mountain seem to recall from 
oblivion memories of a morning all the same 
as this, enjoyed by us with a different joy, 
almost as if then we were a different being, 
joy then the very element in which we drew 
our breath, satisfied now to live in the atmo- 
sphere of sadness often thickened with grief. 
'Tis thus that there grows a confusion among 
the past times in the dormitory — call it jiot 
the burial-place — over-shadowed by sweet or 
solemn imagery — in the inland regions ; nor 
can we question the recollections as they rise 
— being ghosts, they are silent — their coming 
and their going alike a mystery — but some- 
times — as now — they are happy hauntings — 
and age is almost gladdened into illusion of 
returning youth. 

'Tis a lovely little glen as in all the High- 
lands — yet we know not that a painter would 
see in it the subject of a picture — for the 
sprinklings of young trees have been sown 
capriciously by nature, and there seems no 
reason why on that hillside, and not on any 
other, should survive the remains of an old 
wood. Among the multitude of knolls a few 
are eminent with rocks and shrubs, but there 
is no central assemblage, and the green wilder- 
ness wantons in such disorder that you might 
believe the pools there to be, not belonging as 
they are to the same running water, but each 
itself a small separate lakelet fed by its own 
spring. True, that above its homehills there 
are mountains — and these are cliffs on which 
the eagle might not disdain to build — but the 
range wheels away in its grandeur to face a 
loftier region, of which we see here but the 
summits swimming in the distant clouds. 

God bless that hut! and have its inmates in 
his holy keeping! But what Fairy is this 
coming unawares on us sitting by the side of 
the most lucid of little wells 1 Set down thy 
pitcher, my child, and let us have a look at 



thy happiness — for though thou mayst wonder 
at our words, and think us a strange old man, 
coming and going, once and for ever, to thee 
and thine a shadow and no more, yet lean thy 
head towards us that we may lay our hands on 
it and bless it — and promise, as thou art grow- 
ing up here, sometimes to think of the voice 
that spake to thee by the Birk-tree well. Love, 
fear, and serve God, as the Bible teaches — and 
whatever happens thee, quake not, but put thy 
trust in Heaven. 

Do not be afraid of him, sweet one ! O'Bronte 
would submit to be flayed alive rather than 
bite a child — see, he offers you a paw — take it 
without trembling — nay, he will let thee ride 
on his back, my pretty dear — won't thou, 
O'Bronte 1 and scamper with thee up and down 
the knolls like her coal-black charger rejoicing 
to bear the Fairy Queen. Thou tellest us thy 
father and mother, sisters and brothers, all are 
dead ; yet with a voice cheerful as well as 
plaintive. Smile — laugh — sing — as thou wert 
doing a minute ago — as thou hast done for 
many a morning — and shall do for many a 
morning more on thy way to the well — in the 
woods — on the braes — in the house — often all 
by thyself when the old people are out of doors 
not far off — or when sometimes they have for 
a whole day been from home out of the glen. 
Forget not our words — and no evil can befall 
thee that may not, weak as thou art, be borne 
— and nothing wicked that is allowed to walk 
the earth will ever be able to hurt a hair on 
thy head. 

My stars ! what a lovely little animal ! A 
tame fawn, by all that is wild — kneeling down 
— to drink — no — no — at his lady's feet. The 
colley cafched it — thou sayest — on the edge 
of the Auld wood — and by the time its wounds 
were cured, it seemed to have forgot its mother, 
and soon learnt to follow thee about to far-off 
places quite out of sight of this — and to play 
gamesome tricks like a creature born among 
human dwellings. What ! it dances like a kid 
— does it — and sometimes you put a garland 
of wild flowers round its neck — and pursue it 
like a huntress, as it pretends to be making 
its escape into the forest ] 

Look, child, here is a pretty green purse for 
you, that opens and shuts with a spring — so — 
and in it there is a gold coin, called a sove- 
reign, and a crooked sixpence. Don't blush — 
that was a graceful curtsey. Keep the crooked 
sixpence for good-luck, and you never will 
want. With the yellow fellow buy a Sunday 
gown and a pair of Sunday shoes, and what 
else you like; and now — you two, lead the 
way — try a race to the door — and old Christo- 
pher North will carry the pitcher — balancing 
it on his head — thus — ha ! O'Bronte galloping 
along as umpire. The Fawn has it, and by a 
neck has beat Camilla. 

We shall lunch ere we go — and lunch well 
too — for this is a poor man's, not a pauper's 
hut, and Heaven still grants his prayer — " give 
us this day our daily bread." Sweeter — richer 
bannocks of barley-meal never met the mouth 
of mortal man — nor more delicious butter. 
" We salt it, sir, for a friend in Glasgow — but 
now and then we tak' a bite of the fresh— do 
oblige us a', sir, by eatin', and you'll maybe 



THE MOORS. 



135 



find the mutton-ham no that bad, though I've 
kent it fatter — and, as you ha'e a long walk 
afore you, excuse me, sir, for being sae bauld 
as to suggest a glass o'speerit in your milk. 
The gudeman is temperate, and he's been sae 
a' his life — but we keep it for a cordial — and 
that bottle-— to be sure it's a gay big ane — and 
would thole replenishing — has lasted us syne 
Whitsuntide " 

So presseth us to take care of number one 
the gudewife, while the gudeman, busy as 
ourselves, eyes her with a well-pleased face, 
but saith nothing, and the bonnie we bit lassie 
sits on her stool at the wunnoc wi' her coggie 
ready to do any service at a look, and supping 
little or nothing, out of bashfulness in presence 
of Christopher North, who she believes is a 
good, and thinks may, perhaps, be some great 
man. Our third bannock has had the goose- 
berry jam laid on it thick by " the gudewife's 
ain haun'," — and we suspect at that last wide 
bite we have smeared the corners of our mouth 
— but it will only be making matters worse to 
attempt licking it off with our tongue. Pussie ! 
thou hast a cunning look — purring on our 
knees — and though those glass een o' thine 
are blinking at the cream on the saucer — with 
which thou jalousest we intend to let thee wet 
thy whiskers, — we fear thou mak'st no bones 
of the poor birdies in the brake, and that many 
an unlucky leveret has lost its wits at the 
spring of such a tiger. — Cats are queer crea- 
tures, and have an instinctive liking to War- 
locks. 

And these two old people have survived all 
their children — sons and daughters ! They 
have told us the story of their life — and as 
calmly as if they had been telling of the trials 
of some other pair. Perhaps, in our sympathy, 
though we say but little, they feel a strength 
that is not always theirs — perhaps it is a re- 
lief from silent sorrow to speak to one who is 
a stranger to them, and yet, as they may think, 
a brother in affliction — but prayer like thanks- 
giving assures us that there is in this hut a 
Christian composure, far beyond the need of 
our pity, and sent from a region above the 
stars. * 

There cannot be a cleaner cottage. Tidi- 
ness, it is pleasant to know, has for a good 
many years past been establishing itself in 
Scotland among the minor domestic virtues. 

Once established it will never decay ; for it 
must be felt to brighten, more than could be 
imagined by our fathers, the whole aspect of 
life. No need for any other household fairy 
to sweep this floor. An orderly creature we 
have seen she is, from all her movements out 
and in doors — though the guest of but an 
hour. They have told us that they had known 
what are called better days — and were once in 
a thriving way of business in a town. But 
they were born and bred in the country; and 
their manners, not rustic but rural, breathe of 
its serene and simple spirit — at once Lowland 
and Highland — to us a pleasant union, not 
without a certain charm of grace. 

What loose leaves are those lying on the 
Bible ? A few odd numbers of the Scottish 
Christian Herald. We shall take care, our 
friends, that all the Numbers, bound in three 



large volumes, shall, ere many weeks elapse, 
be lying for you at the Manse. Let us recite 
to you, our worthy friends, a small sacred 
Poem, which we have by heart. Christian, 
keep your eye on the page, and if we go 
wrong, do not fear to set us right. Can you 
say many psalms and hymns 1 But we need 
not ask — for 

"Piety is sweet to infant minds ;" 

what they love they remember — for how easy 
— how happy — to get dear things by heart ! 
Happiest of all — the things held holy on earth 
as in heaven — because appertaining here to 
Eternal Life. 

TO THE SCOTTISH CHRISTIAN HERALD. BY THE REV. 
DUNCAN GRANT, A. M., MINISTER OF FORRES. 

"Beauteous on our heath-clad mountains, 
May our Herald's feet appear ; 
Sweet, by silver lakes and fountains, 
May his voice be to our ear. 
Let the tenants of our rocks, 
Shepherds watching o'er their flocks, 
Village swain and peasant boy, 
Thee salute with songs of joy ! 

" Christian Herald ! spread the story 
Of Redemption's wondrous plan; 
'Tis Jehovah's brightest glory, 
'Tis his highest gift to man ; 
Angels on their harps of gold, 
Love its glories to unfold ; 
Heralds who its influence wield, 
Make the waste a fruitful field. 

" To the fount of mercy soaring, 
On the wings of faith and love ; 
And the depths of grace exploring, 
By the light shed from above ; 
Show us whence life's waters flow, 
And where trees of blessing grow, 
Bearing fruit of heavenly bloom, 
Breathing Eden's rich perfume. 

"Love to God and man expressing, 
In thy course of mercy speed ; 
Lead to springs of joy and blessing, 
And with heavenly manna feed 
Scotland's children high and low, 
Till the Lord they truly know : 
As to us our fathers told, 
He was known by them of old. 

"To the young, in season vernal, 
Jesus in his grace disclose; 
As the tree of life eternal, 
'Neath whose shade they may repose, 
Shielded from the noontide ray, 
And from ev'ning's tribes of prey; 
And refresh'd with fruits of love, 
And with music from above 

"Christian Herald! may the biessing 
Of the Highest thee attend, 
That, this chiefest boon possessing, 
Thou may'st prove thy country's friend : 
Tend to make our land assume 
Something of its former bloom, 
When the dews of heaven were seen 
Sparkling on its pastures green ; 

"When the voice of warm devotion 
To the throne of God arose — 
Mishty as the sound of ocean, 
Calm as nature in repose ; — 
Sweeter, than when Araby 
Perfume breathes from flow'r and tree, 
Rising 'bove the shining sphere, 
To Jehovah's list'ning ear." 

It is time we were going — but we wish to 
hear how thy voice sounds, Christian, when it 
reads. So read these same verses, first " into 
yoursel'," and then to us. They speak of 
mercies above your comprehension, and ours, 
and all men's ; for they speak of the infinite 
goodness and mercy of God — but though thou 
hast committed in thy short life no sins, or 
but small, towards, thy fellow-creatures- -how 



136 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



could'st thou 1 yet thou knowest we are all 
sinful in His eyes, and thou knowest on whose 
merits is the reliance of our hopes of Heaven. 
Thank you, Christian. Three minutes from 
two by your house-clock — she gives a clear 
warning — and three minutes from two by our 
watch — rather curious this coincidence to such 
a nicety — we must take up our Crutch and go. 
Thank thee, bonnie wee Christian — in wi' the 
bannocks intil our pouch — but we fear you 
must take us for a sad glutton. 

"Zicketty, dicketty, dock, 
The mouse ran up the clock; 
The clock struck one, 
Down the mouse ran, 
Zicketty, dicketty, dock." 

Come closer, Christian — and let us put it to 
thine ear. What a pretty face of wonder at 
the chime ! Good people, you have work to 
do in the hay-field — let us part — God bless 
you — Good-by — farewell ! 

Half an hour since we parted — we cannot 
help being a little sad — and fear we were not 
so kind to the old people — not so considerate 
as we ought to have been — and perhaps though 
pleased with us just now, they may say to one 
another before evening that we were too merry 
for our years. Nonsense. We were all mer- 
ry together — daft Uncle amang the lave — for 
the creature came stealing in and sat down on 
his own stool in the corner ; and what's the 
use of wearing a long face at all times like a 
Methodist minister 1 A Methodist minister ! 
Why, John Wesley was facete, and Whit- 
field humorous, and Rowland Hill witty — 
though he, we believe, was not a Methody ; 
yet were their hearts fountains of tears — and 
ours is not a rock — if it be, 'tis the rock of 
Horeb. 

Ha, Hamish ! Here we are beneath the 
Merlin Crag. What sport 1 Why, five brace 
is not so much amiss — and they are thumpers. 
Fifteen brace in all. Ducks and flappers'? 



"But what are these, 
So viiher'd and so wild in their attire 
That look not like th' inhabitants o' the earth, 
And yet are on't 1 Live you? or are you aught 
That man may question. You seem to understand me, 
By each at once her choppy finger laying 
Upon her skinny lips : — you should be women, 
And yet your beards forbid me to interpret 
That you are so !" 

Shakspeare is not familiar, we find, among 
the natives of Loch-Etive side — else these 
figures would reply, 

" All hail, Macheth ! hail to thee, Thane of Glammis !" 
But not satisfied with laying their choppy fin- 
gers on their skinny lips, they now put them 
to their plooky noses, having first each dipped 
fore and thumb in his mull, and gibber Gaelic, 
to us unintelligible as the quacking of ducks, 
when a Christian auditor has been prevented 
from catching its meaning by the gobbling of 
turkeys. 

Witches at the least, and about to prophesy 
to us some pleasant events, that are to termi- 
nate disastrously in after years. Is there no nook 
of earth perfectly solitary — but must natural or 
supernatural footsteps haunt the remotest and 
most central places 1 But now we shall have 
our fortunes told in choice Earse, for sure these 



are the Children of the Mist, and perhaps they 
will favour us with a running commentary on 
Ossian. Stout, grim, heather-legged bodies 
they are, one and all, and luckily we are pro- 
vided with snuff and tobacco sufficient for the 
whole crew. Were they even ghosts they will 
not refuse a sneeshin', and a Highland spirit 
will look picturesque puffing a cigar !— Hark! 
we know them and their vocation. These are 
the Genii of the Mountain-dew ; and their hid- 
den enginery, depend on't, is not far off, but 
buried in the bowels of some brae. See! — a 
faint mist dissipating itself over the heather ! 
There — at work, shaming the idle waste, and 
in use and wont to break even the Sabbath-day, 
is a Still ! 

Do we look like Excisemen 1 The Crutch 
has indeed a suspicious family resemblance to 
a gauging-rod; and literary characters, like 
us, may well be mistaken for the Supervisor 
himself. But the smuggler's eye knows his 
enemy at a glance, as the fox knows a hound; 
and' the whispering group discern at once that 
we are of a nobler breed. That one fear dis- 
pelled, Highland hospitality bids us welcome, 
even into the mouth of the malt-kiln, and, with 
a smack on our loof, the Chief volunteers to 
initiate us into the grand mysteries of the Worm. 

The turf-door is flung outward on its lithe 
hinges, and already what a gracious smell! 
In we go, ushered by unbonneted Celts, gen- 
tlemen in manner wherever the kilt is worn ! 
for the tartan is the symbol of courtesy, and 
Mac a good password all the world over be- 
tween man and man. Lowland eyes are apt 
to water in the peat-reek, but erelong we shall 
have another " drappie in our e'e," and drink 
to the Clans in the " unchristened cretur." 
What a sad neglect in our education, among 
all the acquired lingoes extant, to have over- 
looked the Gaelic ! Yet nobody who has ever 
heard P. R. preach an Earse Sermon, need 
despair of discoursing in that tongue after an 
hour's practice ; so let us forget, if possible, 
every word of English, and the language now 
needed will rise up in its place. 

And these figures in men's coats and wo- 
men's petticoats are females ] We are willing 
to believe it in spite of their beards. One of 
them absolutely suckling a child ! Thank you, 
my dear sir, but we cannot swallow the con- 
tents of that quech. Yet, let us try. — A little 
too warm, and rather harsh; but meat and 
drink to a man of age. That seems to be 
goat-milk cheese, and the scones are barley ; 
and they and the speerit will wash one another 
down in an amicable plea, nor quarrel at close 
quarters. Honey too — heather-honey of this 
blessed year's produce. Hecate's forefinger 
mixes it in a quech with mountain-dew — and 
that is Athole-brose ? 

There cannot be the least doubt in the world 
that the Hamiltonian system of teaching lan- 
guages is one of the best ever invented. It will 
en able any pupil of common-run powers of atten- 
tion to read any part of the New Testament in 
Greek in some twenty lessons of an hour each. 
But what is that to the principle of the worm ? 
Half a blessed hour has not elapsed since we 
entered into the door of this hill-house, and we 
offer twenty to one that we read Ossian, ad 



THE MOORS. 



137 



aperturam libri, in the original Gaelic. We feel 
as if we could translate the works of Jeremy 
Bentham into that tongue — ay, even Francis 
Maximus Macnab's Theory of the Universe. 
We guaranty ourselves to do both, this iden- 
tical night before we go to sleep, and if the 
printers are busy during the intermediate 
hours, to correct the press in the morning. 
Why, there are not above five thousand roots — 
but we are getting a little gizzy — into a state 
of civilation in the wilderness — and, gentlemen, 
let us drink — in solemn silence — the " Memory 
ofFingal." 

O St. Cecilia! we did not lay our account 
with a bagpipe ! What is the competition of 
pipers in the Edinburgh Theatre, small as it is, 
to this damnable drone in an earth-cell, eight 
feet by six ! Yet while the drums of our ears 
are continuing to split like old parchment title- 
deeds to lands nowhere existing, and all our 
animal economy, from finger to toe, is one 
agonizing dirl, ^Eolus himself sits as proud 
as Lucifer in Pandemonium ; and as the old 
soldiers keep tending the Worm in the reek as 
if all were silence, the male-looking females, 
and especially the he-she with the imp at her 
breast, nod, and smirk, and smile, and snap 
their fingers, in a challenge to a straspey — 
and, by all that is horrible, a red hairy arm is 
round our neck, and we are half-choked with 
the fumes of whisky-kisses. An hour ago, we 
were dreaming of Malvina ! and here she is 
with a vengeance, while we in the character 
of Oscar are embraced till almost all the Low- 
land breath in our body expires. 

And this is still-life 1 

Extraordinary it is, that, go where we will, 
we are in a wonderfully short time discovered 
to be Christopher North. A few years ago, 
the instant we found our feet in a mine in 
Cornwall, after a descent of about one-third 
the bored earth's diameter, we were saluted by 
name by a grim Monops who had not seen the 
upper regions for years, preferring the interior 
of the planet; and forthwith, "Christopher 
North, Christopher North," reverberated along 
the galleries, while the gnomes came flocking 
in all directions, with safety-lamps, to "catch a 
glimpse of the famous Editor. On another 
occasion, we remember when coasting the 
south of Ireland in our schooner, falling in 
with a boat like a cockle-shell, well out of 
the Bay of Bantry, and of the three half-naked 
Paddies that were ensnaring the finny race, 
two smoked us at the helm, and bawled out, 
" Kitty go bragh !" Were we to go up in a 
balloon, and by any accident descend in the 
interior of Africa, we have not the slightest 
doubt that Sultan Belloo would know us in a 
jiffy, having heard our person so frequently 
described by Major Denham and Captain Clap- 
perton. So we are known, it seems, in the 
Still — by the men of the Worm ? Yes — the 
principal proprietor in the concern is a school- 
master over about Loch-Earn-Head — a man of 
no mean literary abilities, and an occasional 
contributor to the Magazine. "He visits The 
Shop in breeches — but now mounts the kilt — 
and astonishes us by the versatility of his ta- 
lents. In one of the most active working bees 
we recognise a caddy, formerly in Auld Reeky 
18 



ycleped " The Despatch," now retired to the 
Braes of Balquhidder, and breathing strongly 
the spirit of his youth. With that heather- 
houghed gentleman, fiery-tressed as the God of 
Day, we were, for the quarter of a century that 
we held a large grazing farm, in the annual 
practice of drinking a gill at the Falkirk Tryst; 
and — wonderful, indeed, to think how old 
friends meet, we were present at the amputa- 
tion of the right leg of that timber-toed hero 
with the bushy whiskers — in the Hospital 
of Rosetta — having accompanied Sir David 
Baird's splendid Indian army to Egypt. 

Shying, for the present, the question in Po- 
litical Economy, and viewing the subject in a 
moral, social, and poetical light, what, pray, is 
the true influence of The Still] It makes 
people idle. Idle 1 What species of idleness 
is that which consists in being up night and 
day — traversing moors and mountains in all 
weathers — constantly contriving the most skil- 
ful expedients for misleading the Excise, and 
which, on some disastrous day, when dragoons 
suddenly shake the desert — when all is lost 
except honour — hundreds of gallons of wash 
(alas ! alas ! a-day !) wickedly wasted among 
the heather roots, and the whole beautiful Ap- 
paratus lying battered and spiritless in the sun 
beneath the accursed blows of the Pagans — re- 
turns, after a few weeks set apart to natural 
grief and indignation, with unabated energy, to 
the selfsame work, even within view of the 
former ruins, and pouring out a libation of the 
first amalgamated hotness that deserves the 
name of speerit, devotes the whole Board of 
Excise to the Infernal Gods 1 

The argument of idleness has not a leg to 
stand on, and falls at once to the ground. But 
the Still makes men dishonest. We grant that 
there is a certain degree of dishonesty in cheat- 
ing the Excise ; and we shall allow yourself 
to fix it, who give as fine a caulker from the 
sma' still, as any moral writer on Honesty 
with whom we have the pleasure occasionally 
to take a family dinner. But the poor fellows 
either grow or purchase their own malt. They 
do not steal it ; and many is the silent bene- 
diction that we have breathed over a bit patch 
of barley, far up on its stoney soil among the 
hills, bethinking that it would yield up its pre- 
cious spirit unexcised ! Neither do they charge 
for it any very extravagant price — for what is 
twelve, fourteen, twenty shillings a gallon for 
such drink divine as is now steaming before 
us in that celestial caldron ! 

Having thus got . rid of the charge of idle- 
ness and dishonesty, nothing more needs to be 
said on the Moral Influence of the Still ; and 
we come now, in the second place, to consider 
it in a Social Light. The biggest bigot will 
not dare to deny, that without whisky the 
Highlands of Scotland would be uninhabitable 
And if all the population were gone, or extinct, 
where then would be your social life 1 Smug- 
glers are seldom drunkards ; neither are they 
men of boisterous manners or savage disposi- 
tions. In general, they are grave, sedate, 
peaceable characters, not unlike elders of the 
kirk. Even Excisemen admit them, except on 
rare occasions, when human patience is ex 
hausted, to be merciful. Four pleasanter men 
k 2 



138 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



do not now exist in the bosom of the earth, 
than the friends with whom we are now on the 
hobnob. Stolen waters are sweet — a profound 
and beautiful reflection — and no doubt origi- 
nally made by some peripatetic philosopher at 
a Still. The very soul of the strong drink eva- 
porates with the touch of the gauger's wand. 
An evil day would it indeed be for Scotland, 
that should witness the extinguishment of all 
her free and unlicensed mountain stills! The 
charm of Highland hospitality would be wan 
and withered, and the dock an dorras, instead 
of a blessing, would sound like a ban. 

We have said that smugglers are never 
drunkards, not forgetting that general rales are 
proved by exceptions; nay, we go farther, and 
declare that the Highlanders are the soberest 
people in Europe. Whisky is to them a cor- 
dial, a medicine, a life-preserver. Chief of the 
umbrella and wraprascal ! were you ever in 
the Highlands 1 We shall produce a single day 
from any of the fifty-two weeks of the year that 
will outargue you on the present subject, in 
half-an-hour. What sound is that? The rush- 
ing of rain from heaven, and the sudden out- 
cry of a thousand waterfalls. Look through a 
chink in the bothy, and far as you can see for 
the mists, the heath-covered desert is steaming 
like the smoke of a smouldering fire. Winds 
biting as winter come sweeping on their invi- 
sible chariots armed with scythes, down every 
glen, and scatter far and wide over the moun- 
tains the spray of the raging lochs. Now you 
have a taste of the summer cold, more dan- 
gerous far than that of Yule, for it often strikes 
" aitches" into the unprepared bones, and con- 
geals the blood of the shelterless shepherd on 
the hill. But one glorious gurgle of the speerit 
down the throat of a storm-stayed man! and 
bold as a rainbow he faces the reappearing 
sun, and feels assured (though there he may 
be mistaken) of dying at a good old age. 

Then think, oh think, how miserably poor 
are most of those men who have fought our 
battles, and so often reddened their bayonets in 
defence of our liberties and our laws ! Would 
you grudge them a little whisky 1 And, de- 
pend upon it, a little is the most, taking one 
day of the year with another, that they imbibe. 
You figure to yourself two hundred thousand 
Highlanders, taking snuff, and chewing tobac- 
co, and drinking whisky, all year long. Why, 
one pound of snuffy two of tobacco, and two 
gallons of whisky, would be beyond the mark 
of the yearly allowance of every grown-up 
man! Thousands never taste such luxuries 
at all — meal and water, potatoes and salt, their 
only food. The animal food, sir, and the fer- 
mented liquors of various kinds, Foreign and 
British, which to our certain knowledge you 
have swallowed within the last twelve months, 
would have sufficed for fifty families in our 
abstemious region of mist and snow. We 
have known you drink a bottle of champagne, 
a bottle of port, and two bottles of claret, fre- 
quently at a sitting, equal, in prime cost, to 
three gallons of the best Glenlivet! And You 
(who, by the way, are an English clergyman, 
a circumstance we had entirely forgotten, and 
have published a Discourse against Drunken- 
Dess, dedicated to a Bishop) pour forth the 



Lamentations of Jeremiah over the sinful mul- 
titude of Small Stills ! Hypocrisy ! hypocrisy ! 
where shalt thou hide thy many-coloured sides? 

Whisky is found by experience to be, on 
the whole, a blessing in so misty and moun- 
tainous a country. It destroys disease and ba- 
nishes death; without some such stimulant 
the people would die of cold. You will see a 
fine old Gael, of ninety or a hundred, turn up 
his little finger to a caulker with an air of pa- 
triarchal solemnity altogether scriptural ; his 
great-grandchildren eyeing him with the most 
respectful affection, and the youngest of them 
toddling across the floor, to take the quech from 
his huge, withered, and hairy hand, which he 
lays on the amiable Joseph's sleek craniology, 
with a blessing heartier through the Glenlivet, 
and with all the earnestness of religion. There 
is no disgrace in getting drunk — in the High- 
lands — not even if you are of the above stand- 
ing — for where the people are so poor, such a 
state is but of rare occurrence ; while it is felt 
all over the land of sleet and snow, that a "drap 
o' the creatur" is a very necessary of life, and 
that but for its " dew" the mountains would be 
uninhabitable. At fairs, and funerals, and 
marriages, and suchlike merry meetings, so- 
briety is sent to look after the sheep ; but, ex- 
cept on charitable occasions of that kind, so- 
briety stays at home among the peat-reek, and 
is contented with crowdy. Who that ever 
stooped his head beneath a Highland hut would 
grudge a few gallons of Glenlivet to its poor 
but un repining inmates ] The seldomer they 
get drunk the better — and it is but seldom they 
do so ; but let the rich man — the monied mo- 
ralist, who bewails and begrudges the Gael a 
modicum of the liquor of life, remember the 
doom of a certain Dives, who, in a. certain place 
that shall now be nameless, cried, but cried in 
vain for a drop of water. Lord bless the High- 
landers, say we, for the most harmless, hospi- 
table, peaceable, brave people that ever de- 
spised breeches, blue pibrochs, took invincible 
standards, and believed in the authenticity of 
Ossian's poems. In that pure and lofty region 
ignorance is not, as elsewhere, the mother of 
vice — penury cannot repress the noble rage of 
the mountaineer as " he sings aloud old songs 
that are the music of the heart;" while super- 
stition herself has an elevating influence, and 
will be suffered, even by religion, to show her 
shadowy shape and mutter her wild voice 
through the gloom that lies on the heads of the 
remote glens, and among the thousand caves 
of echo in her iron-bound coasts dashed on for 
ever — night and day — summer and winter — 
by those sleepless seas, who have no sooner 
laid their heads on the pillow than up they 
start with a howl that cleaves the Orcades, 
and away off in search of shipwrecks round 
the corner of Cape Wrath. 

In the third place, what shall we say of the 
poetical influence of Stills 1 What more 
poetical life can there be than that of the men 
with whom we are now quaffing the barley- 
bree? They live with the moon and stars. 
All the night winds are their familiars. If 
there be such things as ghosts, and fairies, and 
apparitions — and that there are, no man who 
has travelled much by himself after sunset will 



THE MOORS. 



139 



deny, except from the mere love of contradic- 
tion — they see them; or when invisible, which 
they generally are, hear them — here — there — 
everywhere — in sky, forest, cave, or hollow- 
sounding world immediately beneath their 
feet. Many poets walk these wilds ; nor do 
Iheir songs perish. They publish not with 
Blackwood or with Murray — but for centuries 
on centuries, such songs are the preservers, 
often the sources, of the oral traditions that go 
glimmering and gathering down the stream of 
years. Native are they to the mountains as 
the blooming heather, nor shall they ever cease 
to invest them with the light of poetry — in defi- 
ance of large farms, Methodist preachers, and 
the Caledonian Canal. 

People are proud of talking of solitude. It 
redounds, they opine, to the honour of their 
great-mindedness to be thought capable of 
living, for an hour or two, by themselves, at a 
considerable distance from knots or skeins of 
their fellow-creatures. Byron, again, thought 
he showed his superiority, by swearing as so- 
lemnly as a man can do in the Spenserian 
stanza, that 

" To sit alone, and muse o'er flood and fell," 

has nothing whatever to do with solitude — and 
that, if you wish to know and feel what soli- 
tude really is, you must go to Almack's. 
"This— this is solitude— this is to be alone I" 

His Lordship's opinions were often peculiar — 
but the passage has been much admired ; 
therefore we are willing to believe that the 
Great Desert is, in point of loneliness, unable 
to stand a philosophical, much less a poetical 
comparison, with a well-frequented fancy-ball. 
But is the statement not borne out by facts? 
Zoology is on its side — more especially two of 
its most interesting branches, Entomology and 
Ornithology. 

Go to a desert and clap your back against a 
cliff. Do you think yourself alone? What a 
ninny ! Your great clumsy splay feet are 
bruising to death a batch of beetles. See that 
spider whom you have widowed, running up 
and down your elegant leg, in distraction and 
despair, bewailing the loss of a husband who, 
however savage to the ephemerals, had al- 
ways smiled sweetly upon her. Meanwhile, 
your shoulders have crushed a colony of small 
red ants settled in a moss city beautifully 
roofed with lichens — and that accounts for the 
sharp tickling behind your ear, which you 
keep scratching, no Solomon, in ignorance of 
the cause of that effect. Should you sit down 
— we must beg to draw a veil over your hur- 
dies, which at the moment extinguish a fear- 
ful amount of animal life — creation may be 
said to groan under them ; and, insect as you 
are yourself, you are defrauding millions of 
insects of their little day. All the while you 
are supposing yourself alone! Now are you 
not, as we hinted, a prodigious ninny] But 
the whole wilderness — as you choose to call it 
— is crawling with various life. London, with 
its million and a half of inhabitants — includ- 
ing of course its suburbs — is, compared with 
it, an empty joke. Die — and you will soon be 
picked to the bones. The air swarms with 
sharkers — and an insurrection of radicals will j quechs ! By 



attack your corpse from the worm-holes of the 
earth. Corbies, ravens, hawks, eagles, all the 
feathered furies of beak and bill, will come 
flying ere sunset to anticipate the maggots, and 
carry your remains — if you will allow us to 
call them so — over the whole of Argyleshire in 
many living sepulchres. We confess ourselves 
unable to see the solitude of this — and begin 
to agree with Byron, that a man is less 
crowded at a masquerade. 

But the same subject may be illustrated less 
tragically, and even with some slight comic 
effect. A man among mountains is often sur- 
rounded on all sides with mice and moles. 
What cozy nests do the former construct at 
the roots of heather, among tufts of grass in 
the rushes, and the moss on the greensward ! 
As for the latter, though you think you know 
a mountain from a molehill, you are much 
mistaken; for what is a mountain, in many 
cases, but a collection of molehills — and of 
fairy knolls 1 — which again introduce a new 
element into the composition, and show, in 
still more glaring colours, your absurdity in 
supposing yourself to be in solitude. The 
" Silent People" are around you at every step. 
You may not see them — for they are dressed 
in invisible green ; but they see you, and that 
unaccountable whispering and buzzing sound 
one often hears in what we call the wilderness, 
what is it, or what can it be, but the fairies 
making merry at your expense, pointing out 
to each other the extreme silliness of your 
meditative countenance, and laughing like to 
split at your fond conceit of being alone among 
a multitude of creatures far wiser than your 
self. 

But should all this fail to convince you, that 
you are never less alone than when you think 
yourself alone, and that a man never knows 
what it is to be in the very heart of life till he 
leaves London, and takes a walk in Glen- 
Etive — suppose yourself to have been leaning 
with your back against that knoll, dreaming 
of the far-off race of men, when all at once the 
support gives way inwards, and you tumble 
head over heels in among a snug coterie of 
kilted Celts, in the very act of creating Glen- 
livet in a great warlock's caldron, seething to 
the top with the Spirit of Life ! 

Such fancies as these, among many others, 
were with us in the Still. But a glimmering 
and a humming and a dizzy bewilderment 
hangs over that time and place, finally dying 
away into oblivion. Hi re are we sitting in a 
glade of a birch-wood in what must be Gleno 
— some miles from the Still. Hamish asleep, 
as usual, whenever he lies down, and all the 
dogs yowfBng in dreams, and Surefoot stand- 
ing with his long beard above ours, almost the 
same in longitude. We have been more, we 
suspect, than half-seas over, and are now 
lying on the shore of sobriety, almost a wreck. 
The truth is, that the new spirit is even more 
dangerous than the new light. Both at first 
dazzle, then obfuscate, and lastly darken into 
temporary death. There is, we fear, but one 
word of one syllable in the English language 
that could fully express our late condition. 
Let our readers solve the enigma. Oh ! those 



140 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



" What drugs, what spells, 
What conjurations, and what mighty magic," 

was Christopher overthrown ! A strange con- 
fusion of sexes, as of men in petticoats and 
women in breeches — gowns transmogrified 
into jackets — caps into bonnets — and thick 
naked hairy legs into slim ankles decent in 
hose — all somewhere whirling and dancing by, 
dim and obscure, to the sound of something 
groaning and yelling, sometimes inarticulate- 
ly, as if it came from something instrumental, 
and then mixed up with a wild gibberish, as 
if shrieking, somehow or other, from living 
lips, human and brute— for a dream of yowl- 
ing dogs is over all — utterly confounds us as 
we strive to muster in recollection the few last 
hours that have passed tumultuously through 
our brain — and then a wide black moor, some- 
times covered with day, sometimes with night, 
stretches around us, hemmed in on all sides by 
the tops of mountains, seeming to reel in the 
sky. Frequent flashes of fire, and a whirring 
as of the wings of birds — but sound and sight 
alike uncertain — break again upon our dream. 
Let us not mince the matter — we can afford 
the confession — we have been overtaken by 
liquor — sadly intoxicated — out with it at once ! 
Frown not, fairest of all sweet — for we lay our 
calamity, not to the charge of the Glenlivet 
circling in countless quechs, but at the door 
of that inveterate enemy to sobriety — the Fresh 
Air. 

But now we are as sober as a judge. Pity 
our misfortune — rather than forgive our sin. 
We entered that Still in a State of innocence 
before the Fall. Where we fell, we know not 
— in divers ways and sundry places — between 
that magic cell on the breast of Benachochie, 
and this glade in Gleno. But, 

"There are worse things in Hfe than a fall among 
heather." 

Surefoot, we suppose, kept himself tolerably 
sober — and O'Bronte, at each successive cloit, 
must have assisted us to remount — for Hamish, 
from his style of sleeping, must have been as 
bad as his master ; and, after all, it is wonder- 
ful to think how we got here — over hags and 
mosses, and marshes and quagmires, like those 
in which " armies whole have sunk." But the 
truth is, that never in the whole course of our 
lives — and that course has been a strange one 
— did we ever so often as once lose our way. 
Set us down blindfolded on Zahara, and we 
will beat the caravan to Timbuctoo. Some- 
thing or other mysteriously indicative of the 
right direction touches the soles of our feet in 
the shape of the ground they tread ; and even 
when our souls have gone soaring far away, 
or have sunk within us, still have our feet 
pursued the shortest and the safest path that 
leads to the bourne of our pilgrimage. Is not 
that strange 1 ? But not stranger surely than 
the flight of the bee, on his first voyage over 
the coves of the wilderness to the far-off heath- 
er-bells — or of the dove that is sent by some 
Jew stockjobber, to communicate to Dutchmen 
the rise or fall of the funds, from London to 
Hamburgh, from the clear shores of silver 
Thames to the muddy shallows of the Zuyder- 
Zee. 



FLIGHT FOURTH— DOWN RIVER AND 
UP LOCH. 

Let us inspect the state of Brown Bess. 
Right barrel empty — left barrel — what is the 
meaning of this? — crammed to the muzzle! 
Ay, that comes on visiting Stills. We have 
been snapping away at the coveys and single 
birds all over the moor, without so much as a 
pluff, with the right-hand cock — and then, 
imagining that we had fired, have kept loading 
away at the bore to the left, till, see ! the ram- 
rod absolutely stands upright in the air, with 
only about three inches hidden in the hollow! 
What a narrow — a miraculous escape has the 
world had of losing Christopher North ! Had 
he drawn that trigger instead of this, Brown 
Bess would have burst to a moral certainty, 
and blown the old gentleman piecemeal over 
the heather. " In the midst of life we are in 
death !" Could we but know one in a hun- 
dred of the close approachings of the skeleton, 
we should" lead a life of perpetual shudder. 
Often and often do his bony fingers almost 
clutch our throat, or his foot is put out to give 
us a cross-buttock. But a saving arm pulls 
him back, ere we have seen so much as his 
shadow. We believe all this — but the belief 
that comes not from something steadfastly 
present before our eyes, is barren ; and thus 
it is, since believing is not seeing, that we 
walk hoodwinked nearly all our days, and 
worst of all blindness is that of ingratitude 
and forgetfulness of Him whose shield is for 
ever over us, and whose mercy shall be with 
us in the world beyond the grave. 

By all that is most beautifully wild in ani- 
mated nature, a Roe ! a Roe ! Shall we slay 
him where he stands, or let him vanish in 
silent glidings in among his native woods ] 
What a fool for asking ourselves such a 
question ! Slay him where he stands to be 
sure — for many pleasant seasons hath he led 
in his le'afy lairs, a life of leisure, delight, and 
love, and the hour is come when he must sink 
down on his knees in a sudden and unpainful 
death— fair silvan dreamer ! We have drawn 
that multitudinous shot — and both barrels of 
Brown Bess now are loaded with ball — for 
Hamish is yet lying with his head on the rifle. 
Whiz ! whiz ! one is through lungs, and another 
through neck — and seemingly rather to sleep 
than die, (so various are the many modes of 
expiration !) 

" In quietness he lays him down 
Gently, as a weary wave 
Sinks, when the summer breeze has died, 
Against an anchor'd vessel's side." 

Ay — Hamish — you may start to your feet — 
and see realized the vision of your sleep. 
What a set of distracted dogs ! But O'Bronte 
first catches sight of the quarry— and clear- 
ing, with grasshopper spangs, the patches of 
stunted coppice, stops stock-still beside the 
roe in the glade, as if admiring and wondering 
at the beauty of the fair spotted creature ! Yes, 
dogs have a sense of the beautiful. Else how 
can you account for their loving so to lie 
down at the feet and lick the hands of the 
virgin whose eyes are mild, and forehead meek, 
and hair of placid sunshine, rather than act 
the same part towards ugly women, who, 



THE MOORS. 



141 



coarser and coarser in each successive widow- 
hood, when at their fourth husband are beyond 
expression hideous, and felt to be so by the 
whole canine tribe 1 Spenser must hare seen 
some dog like O'Bronte lying at the feet and 
licking the hand of some virgin — sweet reader, 
like thyself — else never had he painted the 
posture of that Lion who guarded through 
Fairyland 

"Heavenly Una and her milkwhite lamb." 

A divine line of Wordsworth's, which we shall 
never cease quoting on to the last of our in- 
ditings, even to our dying day! 

But where, Hamish, are all the flappers, the 
mawsies, and the mallards 1 What ! You have 
left them — hare, grouse, bag, and all, at the 
Still ! We remember it now — and all the dis- 
tillers are to-night to be at our Tent, bringing 
with them feathers, fur, and hide — ducks, 
pussy, and deer. But take the roe on your 
stalwart shoulders, Hamish, and bear it down 
to the silvan dwelling at the mouth of Gleno. 
Surefoot has a sufficient burden in us — for we 
are waxing more corpulent every day — and 
erelong shall be a Silenus. 

Ay, travel all the world over, and a human 
dwelling lovelier in its wildness shall you 
nowhere find, than the one that hides itself in 
the depth of its own beauty, beneath the last 
of the green knolls besprinkling Gleno, dropt 
down there in presence of the peacefulest bay 
of all Loch-Etive, in whose cloud-softened 
bosom it sees itself reflected among the con- 
genial imagery of the skies. And, hark! a 
murmur as of swarming bees ! 'Tis a Gaelic 
school — set down in this loneliest of all places, 
by that religious wisdom that rests not till the 
seeds of saving knowledge shall be sown over 
all the wilds. That grayhaired minister of 
God, whom all Scotland venerates, hath been 
here from the great city on one of his holy 
pilgrimages. And, lo ! at his bidding, and 
that of his coadjutors in the heavenly work, a 
Schoolhouse has risen with its blue roof — the 
pure diamond-sparkling slates of Ballahulish 
— beneath a tuft of breeze-breaking trees. But 
whence come they — the little scholars — who 
are all murmuring there? We said that the 
shores of Loch-Etive were desolate. So seem 
they to the eye of Imagination, that loves to 
gather up a hundred scenes into one, and to 
breathe over the whole the lonesome spirit of 
one vast wilderness. But Imagination was a 
liar ever — a romancer and a dealer in dreams. 
Hers are the realms of fiction, 

"A boundless contiguity of shade !" 

But the land of truth is ever the haunt of the 
heart — there her eye reposes or expatiates, 
and what sweet, humble, and lowly visions 
arise before it, in a light that fadeth not away, 
but abideth for ever ! Cottages, huts, shielings, 
she sees hidden — few and far between indeed 
— but all filled with Christian life — among the 
hollows of the hills — and up, all the way up 
the great glens — and by the shores of the lone- 
liest lochs — and sprinkled, not so rarely, among 
the woods that enclose little fields and mea- 
dows of their own — all the way down — more 
animated — till children are seen gathering be- 
fore their doors the shells of the contiguous sea. 



Look and listen far and wide through a sun- 
shiny day, over a rich wooded region, with 
hedgerows, single trees, groves, and forests, 
and yet haply not one bird is to be seen or 
heard — neither plumage nor song. Yet many 
a bright lyrist is there, all mute till the harb- 
inger-hour of sunset, when all earth, air, and 
heaven, shall be ringing with one song. Al- 
most even so is it with this mountain-wilder- 
ness. Small bright-haired, bright-eyed, bright- 
faced children, come stealing out in the morn- 
ing from many hidden huts, each solitary in 
its own site? the sole dwelling on its own brae 
or its own dell. Singing go they one and all, 
alone or in small bands, trippingly along the 
wide moors ; meeting into pleasant parties at 
cross paths, or at fords, till one stated hour 
sees them all gathered together, as now in the 
small Schoolhouse of Gleno, and the echo of 
the happy hum of the simple scholars is heard 
soft among the cliffs. But all at once the hum 
now ceases, and there is a hurry out of doors, 
and exulting cry ; for the shadow of Hamish, 
with the roe on his shoulders, has passed the 
small lead-latticed window, and the School- 
room has emptied itself on the green, which is 
now brightening with the young blossoms of 
life. " A roe — a roe — a roe !" — is still the 
chorus of their song; and the Schoolmaster 
himself, though educated at college for the 
kirk, has not lost the least particle of his 
passion for the chase, and with kindling eyes 
assists Hamish in laying down his burden, and 
gazes on the spots with a hunter's jo3 T . We 
leave you to imagine his delight and his sur 
prise when, at first hardly trusting his optics, 
he beholds Christopher ox Surefoot, and 
then, patting the shelty on the shoulder, bows 
affectionately and respectfully to the Old Man, 
and while our hands grasp, takes a pleasure 
in repeating over and over again that celebrated 
sum am e — North — North — N orth. 

After a brief and bright hour of glee and 
merriment, mingled with grave talk, nor marred 
by the sweet undisturbance of all those elves 
maddening on the Green around the Roe, we 
express a wish that the scholars may all again 
be gathered together in the Schoolroom, to 
undergo an examination by the Christian Phi- 
losopher of Buchanan Lodge. 'Tis in all things 
gentle, in nothing severe. All slates are in- 
stantly covered with numerals, and 'tis pleasant 
to see their skill in finest fractions, and in the 
wonder-working golden rule of three. And 
now the rustling of their manuals is like that 
of rainy breezes among the summer leaves. 
No fears are here that the Book of God will 
lose its sanctity by becoming too familiar to 
eye, lip, and hand. Like the sunlight in the 
sky, the light that shines there is for ever dear 
— and unlike any sunlight in any skies, never 
is it clouded, permanently bright, and un- 
dimmed before pious eyes by one single 
shadow. We ought, perhaps, to be ashamed, 
but we are not so— we are happy that not an 
urchin is there who is not fully better ac- 
quainted with the events and incidents re- 
corded in the Old and New Testaments than 
ourselves ; and think not that all these could 
have been so faithfully committed to memory 
without the perpetual operation of the heart. 



142 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



Words are forgotten unless they are embalmed 
in spirit; and the air of the world, blow after- 
wards rudely as it may, shall never shrivel up 
one syllable that has been steeped into their 
souls by the spirit of the Gospel — felt by these 
almost infant disciples of Christ to be the very 
breath of God. 

It has turned out one of the sweetest and 
serenest afternoons that ever breathed a hush 
over the face and bosom of August woods. 
Can we find it in our mind to think, in our 
heart to feel, in our hand to write that Scotland 
is now even more beautiful than in our youth ! 
No— not in our heart to feel — but in our eyes 
to see— for they tell us it is the truth. The 
people have cared for the land which the Lord 
their God hath given them, and have made the 
wilderness to blossom like the rose. The 
same Arts that have raised their condition 
have brightened their habitation ; Agriculture, 
by fertilizing the loveliness of the low-lying 
vales, has sublimed the sterility of the stupend- 
ous mountain heights — and the thundrous tides, 
flowing up the lochs, bring power to the corn- 
fields and pastures created on hillsides once 
horrid with rocks. The whole country laughs 
with a more vivid verdure — more pure the 
flow of her streams and rivers — for many a 
fen and marsh have been made dry, and the 
rainbow pictures itself on clearer cataracts. 

The Highlands were, in our memory, over- 
spread with a too dreary gloom. Vast tracts 
there were in which Nature herself seemed 
miserable; and if the heart find no human 
happiness to repose on, Imagination will fold 
her wings, or flee away to other regions, where 
in her own visionary world she may soar at 
will, and at will stoop down to the homes of 
this real earth. Assuredly the inhabitants are 
happier than they then were — better off — and 
therefore the change, whatever loss it may 
comprehend, has been a gain in good. Alas ! 
poverty — penury — want — even of the necessa- 
ries of life — are too often there still rife ; but 
patience and endurance dwell there, heroic and 
better far, Christian — nor has Charity been 
slow to succour regions remote but not inac- 
cessible, Charity acting in power delegated by 
Heaven to our National Councils. And thus 
we can think not only without sadness, but 
with an elevation of soul inspired by such 
example of highest virtue in humblest estate, 
and in our own sphere exposed to other trials 
be induced to follow it, set to us in many "a 
virtuous household, though exceeding poor." 
What are all the poetical fancies about " moun- 
tain scenery," that ever fluttered on the leaves 
of albums, in comparison with any scheme, 
however prosaic, that tends in any way to in- 
crease human comforts ? The best sonnet that 
ever was written by a versifier from the South 
to the Crown of Benlomond, is not worth the 
worst pair of worsted stockings trotted in by a 
small Celt going with his dad to seek for a lost 
sheep among the snow-wreaths round his base. 
As for eagles, and ravens, and red-deer, " those 
magnificent creatures so stately and bright," 
let them shift for themselves — and perhaps in 
spite of all our rhapsodies — the fewer of them 
the better — but among geese, and turkeys, and 
poultry, let propagation flourish — the fleecy 



folk baa — and the hairy hordes bellow on a 
thousand hills. All the beauty and sublimity 
on earth— over the Four Quarters of the World 
— is not worth a straw if valued against a good 
harvest. An average crop is satisfactory; but 
a crop that soars high above an average — a 
golden year of golden ears — sends joy into the 
heart of heaven. No prating now of the de- 
generacy of the potato. We can sing now 
with our single voice, like a numerous cho- 
rus, of 

" Potatoes drest both ways, both roasted and boiled ;" 

Sixty bolls to the acre on a field of our own of 
twenty acres— mealier than any meal — Perth 
reds — to the hue on whose cheeks dull was 
that on the face of the Fair Maid of Perth, 
when she blushed to confess to Burn-y-win* 
that hand-over-hip he had struck the iron when 
it was hot, and that she was no more the 
Glover's. Oh bright are potato blooms ! — Oh 
green are potato-shaws! — Oh yellow are potato 
plums! But how oft are blighted summer 
hopes and broken summer promises ! Spare 
not the shaw — heap high the mounds — that 
damp nor frost may dim a single eye; so that 
all winter through poor men may prosper, and 
spring see settings of such prolific vigour, that 
they shall yield a thousand-fold — and the sound 
of rumble-te-thumps be heard all over the 
land. 

Let the people eat — let them have food for 
their bodies, and then they will have heart to 
care for their souls; and the good and the wise 
will look after their souls, with sure and certain 
hope of elevating them from their hovels to 
heaven, while prigs, with their eyes in a fine 
frenzy rolling, rail at railroads and all the other 
vile inventions of an utilitarian age to open 
up and expedite communication between the 
Children of the Mist and the Sons and Daugh- 
ters of the Sunshine, to the utter annihilation 
of the sublime Spirit of Solitude. Be under no 
sort of alarm for Nature. There is some talk, 
it is true, of a tunnel through Cruachan to the 
Black Mount, but the general impression seems 
to be that it will be a great bore. A joint-stock 
company that undertook to remove Ben Nevis, 
is beginning to find unexpected obstructions. 
Feasible as we confess it appeared, the idea of 
draining Loch Lomond has been relinquished 
for the easier and more useful scheme of con- 
verting the Clyde from below Stonebyres, to 
above the Bannatyne Fall, into a canal — the 
chief lock being, in the opinion of the most 
ingenious speculators, almost ready-made at 
Corra Linn. 

Shall we never be done with our soliloquy? 
It may be a little longish, for age is prolix — big. 4 : 
every whit as natural and congenial with cir- 
cumstances, as Hamlet's "to be or not to be, 
that is the question." O beloved Albin ! our 
soul yearneth towards thee, and we invoke a 
blessing on thy many thousand glens. The 
man who leaves a blessing on any one of thy 
solitary places, and gives expression to a good 
thought in presence of a Christian brother, is a 
missionary of the church. What uncomplain- 
ing and unrepining patience in thy solitary 
huts ! What unshrinking endurance of physical 
pain and want, that might well shame the Stoic's 



THE MOORS. 



143 



philosophic pride! What calm contentment, 
akin to mirth, in so many lonesome households, 
hidden the greatest part of the year in mist and 
snow! What peaceful deathbeds, witnessed 
but by a few, a very few grave but tearless 
eyes ! Ay, how many martyrdoms for the holy 
love and religion of nature, worse to endure 
than those of old at the stake, because pro- 
tracted through years of sore distress, for ever 
on the very limit of famine, yet for ever far 
removed from despair! Such is the people 
ajuong whom we seek to drop the books, whose 
sacred leaves are too often scattered to the 
winds, or buried in the dust of Pagan lands. 
Blessed is the fount from whose wisely managed 
munificence the small house of God will rise 
frequent in the wide and sea-divided wilds, with 
its humble associate, the heath-roofed school, 
in which, through the silence of nature, will be 
heard the murmuring voices of the children of 
the poor, instructed in the knowledge useful 
for time, and of avail for eternity. 

We leave a loose sovereign or two to the 
Bible Fund; and remounting Surefoot, while 
our friend the school-master holds the stirrup 
tenderly to our toe, jog down the road which is 
rather alarmingly like the channel of a drought- 
dried torrent, and turning round on the saddle, 
send our farewell salutes to the gazing scholars, 
first, bonnet waved round our head, and then, 
that replaced, a kiss flung from our hand. 
Hamish, relieved of the roe, which will be 
taken up (how you shall by-and-by hear) on 
our way back to the Tent, is close at our side, 
to be ready should Shelty stumble; O'Bronte 
as usual bounds in the van, and Ponto, Piro, 
and Basta, impatient for the next heather hill, 
keep close at our heels through the wood. 

We do not admire that shooting-ground which 
resembles a poultry-yard. Grouse and barn- 
door fowls are constructed on opposite princi- 
ples, the former being wild, and the latter tame 
creatures, when in their respective perfection. 
Of all dull pastimes, the dullest seems to us 
sporting in a preserve; and we believe that we 
share that feeling with the Grand Signior. The 
sign of a lonely wayside inn in the Highlands, 
ought not to be the Hen and Chickens. Some 
shooters, we know, sick of common sport, love 
slaughter. From sunrise to sunset of the First 
Day of the Moors, they must bag their hundred 
brace. That can only be done where pouts 
prevail, and cheepers keep chiding; and where 
you have half-a-dozen attendants to hand you 
double-barrels sans intermission, for a round 
dozen of hours spent in a perpetual fire. Com- 
mend us to a plentiful sprinkling of game; to 
ground which seems occasionally barren, and 
which it needs a fine instructed eye to traverse 
scientifically, and thereof to detect the latent 
riches. Fear and Hope are the Deities whom 
Christopher in his Sporting Jacket worships ; 
and were they unpropitious, the Moors would 
lose all their witchcraft. We are a dead shot, 
but not always, for the forefinger of our right 
hand is the most fitful forefinger in all this 
capricious world. Like all performers in the 
Fine Arts, our execution is very uncertain; 
and though "toujours pret" is the impress on 
one side of our shield, "hit and miss" is that on 
the other, and often the more characteristic. 



A gentleman ought not to shoot like a game- 
keeper, any more than at billiards to play like 
a marker, nor with four-in-hand ought he to 
tool his prads like the Portsmouth Dragsman. 
We choose to shoot like a philosopher as we 
are, and to preserve the golden mean in mur- 
der. We hold, with Aristotle, that all virtue 
consists in the middle, between the two ex- 
tremes ; and thus we shoot in a style equidistant 
from that of the gamekeeper on the one hand, 
and that of the bagman on the other, neither 
killing nor missing every bird; but, true to the 
spirit of the Aristotelian doctrine, leaning with 
a decided inclination towards the first rather 
than the second predicament. If we shoot too 
well one day, we are pretty sure to make 
amends for it by shooting just as much too ill 
another; and thus, at the close of the week, 
we can go to bed with a clear conscience. In. 
short, we shoot like gentlemen, scholars, poets, 
philosophers as we are; and looking at us, you 
have a sight 

'* Of him who walks (rides) in glory and in joy, 
Following his dog upon the mountain side," — 

a man evidently not shooting for a wager, and 
performing a match from the mean motive of 
avarice or ambition, but blazing away " at his 
own sweet will," and, without seeming to know 
it, making a great noise in the world. Such, 
believe us, is ever the mode in which true genius 
displays at once the earnestness and the modesty 
of its character. — But, Hamish — Hamish — 
Hamish — look with both thine eyes on yonder 
bank — yonder sunny bank, beneath the shade 
of that fantastic cliff's superincumbent shadow 
— and seest thou not basking there a miracu- 
lous amount of the right sort of feathers 1 
They have packed, Hamish — they have packed, 
early as it yet is in the season ; and the question 
is — What shall we do? We have it. Take up 
a position — Hamish — about a hundred yards 
in the rear — on yonder knoll — with the Colo- 
nel's Sweeper. Fire from the rest — mind, 
from the rest, Hamish — right into the centre 
of that bed of plumage, and we shall be ready, 
with Brown Bess and her sister, to pour in our 
quartette upon the remains as they rise — so 
that not escape shall one single feather. Let 
our coming " to the present" be your signal.— 
Bang ! Whew ! — what a flutter ! Now take 
that — and that — and that — and that! Ha! 
Hamish — as at the springing of a mine, the 
whole company has perished. Count the dead. 
Twenty-one ! Life is short — and by this com- 
pendious style we take Time by the forelock. 
But where the devil are the ducks 1 Oh, yes ! 
with the deer at the Still. Bag, and be stir- 
ring. For the Salmon-pond is murmuring in 
our ear ; and in another hour we must be at 
Inveraw. Who said that Cruachan was a 
steep mountain 1 Why, with a gentle, smooth, 
and easy slope, he dips his footsteps in the 
sea-salt waters of Loch-Etive's tide, as if to 
accommodate the old gentleman who, half-a- 
century ago, used to beard him in his pride on 
his throne of clouds. Heaven bless him ! — he 
is a kind-hearted mountain, though his fore- 
head be furrowed, and his aspect grim in 
stormy weather. A million memories " o' auld 
lang syne " revive, as almost " smooth-sliding 
without step" Surefoot travels through the 



144 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



silvan haunts, by us beloved of yore, when 
every day was a dream, and every dream 
filled to overflowing with poetic visions that 
swarmed on every bough, on every bent, on 
every heather-bell, in every dewdrop, in every 
mote o' the sun, in every line of gossamer, all 
over greenwood and greensward, gray cliff, 
purple heath, blue loch, " wine-faced sea," 

"with locks divinely spreading, 
Like sullen hyacinths in vernal hue." 

and all over the sky, seeming then a glorious 
infinitude, where light, and joy, and beauty haa 
their dwelling in calm and storm alike for 
evermore. 

Heaven bless thee — with all her sun, moon, 
and stars ! there thou art, dearest to us of all 
the lochs of Scotland — and they are all dear — 
mountain-crowned, cliff-guarded, isle-zoned, 
grove-girdled, wide-winding and far-stretching, 
with thy many-bayed banks and braes of brush- 
wood, fern, broom, and heather, rejoicing in 
their huts and shielings, thou glory of Argyle- 
shire, rill-and-river-fed, sea-arm-like, floating 
in thy majesty, magnificent Loch Awe ! 

Comparisons, so far from being odious, are 
always suggested to our hearts by the spirit of 
love. We behold Four Lochs — Loch Awe, 
before our bodily eyes, which sometimes sleep 
—Loch-Lomond, Windermere, Killarney, be- 
fore those other eyes of ours that are waking 
ever. The longest is Loch Awe, which, from 
that bend below Sonnachan to distant Edder- 
line, looks like a river. But cut off, with the 
soft scythe or sickle of fancy, twenty miles of 
the length of the mottled snake, who never 
coils himself up except in misty weather, and 
who is now lying outstretched in the sunshine, 
and the upper part, the head and shoulders, 
are of themselves a Loch. Pleasant are his 
many hills, and magnificent his one mountain. 
For you see but Cruachan. He is the master- 
spirit. Call him the noblest of Scotland's 
Kings. His subjects are princes; and glori- 
ously they range around him, stretching high, 
wide, and far away, yet all owing visible alle- 
giance to him their sole and undisputed sove- 
reign. The setting and the rising sun do him 
homage. Peace loves — as now — to dwell with- 
in his shadow; but high among the precipices 
are the halls of the storms. Green are the 
shores as emerald. But the dark heather with 
its purple bloom sleeps in sombre shadow 
over wide regions of dusk, and there is an 
austere character in the cliffs. Moors and 
mosses intervene between holms and meadows, 
and those black spots are stacks of last year's 
peats — not huts, as you might think — but those 
other specks are huts, somewhat browner — 
few roofed with straw, almost all with heather 
— though the better houses are slated — nor is 
there in the world to be found slate of a more 
beautiful pale green colour than in the quar- 
ries of Ballahulish. The scene is vast and 
wild ; yet so much beauty is interfused, that at 
such an hour as this, its character is almost 
that of loveliness ; the rude and rugged is felt 
to be rural, and no more; and the eye gliding 
from the cottage gardens on its banks, to the 
islands on the bosom of the Loch, loses sight 
of the mighty masses heaved up to the heavens, 
while the heart forgets that they are there, in 



its sweet repose. The dim-seen ruins of castle 
or religious house, secluded from all the stir 
that disturbed the shore, carries back our 
dreams to the olden time, and we awake from 
our reveries of " sorrows suffered long ago," to 
enjoy the apparent happiness of the living 
world. 

Loch Lomond is a sea ! Along its shores 
might you voyage in your swift schooner, with 
shifting breezes, all 'a summer's day, nor at 
sunset, when you dropped anchor, have seen 
half the beautiful wonders. It is many-isled; 
and some of them are in themselves little 
worlds, with woods and hills. Houses are 
seen looking out from among old trees, and 
children playing on the greensward that slopes 
safely into deep water, where in rushy havens 
are drawn up the boats of fishermen, or of 
woodcutters who go to their work on the main- 
land. You might live all your life on one of 
those islands, and yet be no hermit. Hundreds 
of small bays indent the shores, and some of a 
majestic character take a fine bold sweep with 
their towering groves, enclosing the mansion 
of a Colquhoun or a Campbell at enmity no 
more, or the turreted castle of the rich alien, 
who there finds himself as much at home as 
in his hereditary hall, Sassenach and Gael 
now living in gentle friendship. What a pros- 
pect from the Point of Firkin. The loch in 
its whole length and breadth — the magnificent 
expanse unbroken, though bedropped, with 
unnumbered isles — and the shores diversified 
with jutting cape and far-shooting peninsula, 
enclosing sweet separate seclusions, each in 
itself a loch. Ships might be sailing here, the 
largest ships of war ; and there is anchorage 
for fleets. But the clear course of the lovely 
Leven is rock-crossed and intercepted with 
gravelly shallows, and guards Loch-Lomond 
from the while-winged roamers that from all 
seas come crowding into the Firth of Clyde, 
and carry their streaming flags above the 
woods of Ardgowan. And there stands Ben. 
What cares he for all the multitude of other 
lochs his gaze commands — what cares he even 
for the salt-sea foam tumbling far away off 
into the ocean 1 All-sufficient for his love is 
his own loch at his feet. How serenely looks 
down the Giant ! Is there not something very 
sweet in his sunny smile ? Yet were you to 
see him frown — as we have seen him — your 
heart would sink ; and what would become of 
you — if all alone by your own single self, 
wandering over the wide moor that glooms in 
utter houselessness between his corries and 
Glenfalloch — what if you were to hear the 
strange mutterings we have heard, as if moan- 
ing from an earthquake among quagmires, till 
you felt that the sound came from the sky, and 
all at once from the heart of night that had 
strangled day burst a shattering peal that 
might waken the dead — for Benlomond was in 
wrath, and vented it in thunder 1 

Perennially enjoying the blessing of a mild- 
er clime, and repaying the bounty of nature by 
beauty that bespeaks perpetual gratitude — 
merry as May, rich as June, shady as July, 
lustrous as August, and serene as September, 
for in her meet the characteristic charms of 
every season, all delightfully mingled by the 



THE MOORS. 



145 



happy genius of the place commissioned to 
pervade the whole from heaven, most lovely 
yet most majestic, we breathed the music of 
thy name, and start in this sterner solitude at 
the sweet syllabling of Windermere, Winder- 
mere ! Translucent thy waters as diamond 
without a flaw. Unstained from source to sea 
are all the streams soft issuing from their sil- 
ver springs among those beautiful mountains. 
Pure are they all as dew — and purer look the 
white clouds within their breast. These are 
indeed the Fortunate Groves ! Happy is every 
tree. Blest the "Golden Oak," which seems 
to shine in lustre of his own, unborrowed from 
the sun. Fairer far the flower-tangled grass 
of those wood-encircled pastures than any 
meads of Asphodel. Thou need'st no isles 
on thy heavenly bosom, for in the sweet con- 
fusion of thy shores are seen the images of 
many isles, fragments that one might dream 
had been gently loosened from the land, and 
had floated away into the lake till they had 
lost themselves in the fairy wilderness. But 
though thou need'st them not, yet hast thou, 
Windermere ! thine own steadfast and endur- 
ing isles — her called the Beautiful — and islets 
not far apart that seem born of her; for theirs 
the same expression of countenance — that of 
ceJestial calm — and, holiest of the sisterhood, 
one that still retains the ruins of an oratory, 
and bears the name of the Virgin Mother Mild, 
to whom prays the mariner when sailing, in 
the moonlight, along Sicilian seas. 

Killarney! From the village of Cloghereen 
issued an uncouth figure, who called himself 
the "Man of the Mountain;" and pleased with 
Pan, we permitted him to blow his horn be- 
fore us up to the top of Mangerton, where the 
Devil, 'tis believed, scooped out the sward be- 
neath the cliffs into a Punch-bowl. No doubt 
he did, and the Old Potter wrought with fire. 
'Tis the crater of an extinct volcano. Charles 
Fox, Weld says, and Wright doubts, swam the 
Pool. Why not 1 'Tis not so cold as the Po- 
lar Sea. We swam across it — as Mulcocky, 
were he alive, but he is dead, could vouch ; 
and felt braced like a drum. What a pano- 
rama ! Our first feeling was one of grief that 
we were not ^an Irishman. We knew not 
-where to fix our gaze. Surrounded by the 
dazzling bewilderment of all that multitudi- 
nous magnificence, the eye, as if afraid to 
grapple with the near glory — for such another 
day never shone from heaven — sought relief 
in the remote distance, and slid along the 
beautiful river Kenmare, insinuating itself 
among the recesses of the mountains,, till it 
rested on the green glimmer of the far-off sea. 
The grandeur was felt, far off as it was, of 
that iron-bound coast. Coming round with 
an easy sweep, as the eyes of an eagle may 
do, when hanging motionless aloft he but 
turns his head, our eyes took in all the mighty 
range of the Reeks, and rested in awe on 
Carran Tual. Wild yet gentle was the blue 
aerial haze over the glimpses of the Upper 
Lake, where soft and sweet, in a girdle of 
rocks, seemed to be hanging, now in air and 
now in water—for all was strangely indistinct 
in the dim confusion — masses of green light 
that might be islands with their lovely trees ; 
19 



but suddenly tipt with fire shone out the gold- 
en pinnacles of the Eagle's Nest ; and as again 
they were tamed by cloud-shadow, the glow 
of Purple Mountain for a while enchained our 
vision, and then left it free to feast on the 
forests of Glena, till, wandering at the capri- 
cious will of fancy, it floated in delight over 
the woods of Mucruss, and long lost among 
the trembling imagery of the water, found last- 
ing repose on the steadfast beauty of the sil- 
van isle of Inisfallen. 

But now for the black mass of rapid waters 
that, murmuring from loch to river, rush roar- 
ing through that rainbow-arch, and bathe the 
green woods in freshening spray-mist through* 
a loveliest landscape, that steals along with 
its meadow-sprinkling trees close to the very 
shore of Loch-Etive, binding the two lochs to- 
gether with a silvan band — her whose calmer 
spirit never knows the ebb or flow of tide, and 
her who fluctuates even when the skies are 
still with the swelling and subsiding tumult 
duly sent up into and recalled down from the 
silence of her inland solitude. ''And now for 
one pool in that river, called by eminence the 
Salmon Pool, whose gravelly depths are some- 
times paved with the blue backs of the silver- 
scaled shiners, all strong as sunbeams, for a 
while reposing there, till the river shall black- 
en in its glee to the floods falling in Glen- 
Scrae and Glenorchy, and then will they shoot 
through the cataract — for 'tis all one fall be- 
tween the lochs — passionate of the sweet fresh 
waters in which the Abbey-Isle reflects her 
one ruined tower, or Kilchurn, at all times 
dim or dark in the shadow of Cruachan, 
see his grim turrets, momentarily less grim, 
imaged in the tremblings of the casual sun- 
shine. Sometimes they lie like stones, nor 
unless you stir them up with a long pole, will 
they stir in the gleam, more than if they were 
shadows breathed from trees when all winds 
are dead. But at other times, they are on 
feed ; and then no sooner does the fly drop on 
the water in its blue and yellow gaudiness, 
(and oh ! but the brown mallard wing is 
blood3 r — bloody!) than some snout sucks it in 
— some snout of some swine-necked shoulder- 
bender ; and instantly — as by dexterously drop- 
ping your elbow you give him the butt, and 
strike the barb through his tongue — down the 
long reach of the river vista'd along that 
straight oak-avenue — but with clear space of 
greensward between wood and water — shoots 
the giant steel-stung in his fear, bounding 
blue- white into the air, and then down into 
the liquid element with a plunge as of a man, 
or rather a horse, till your, heart leaps to your 
mouth, or, as the Greeks we believe used to 
<say, to your nose, and you are seen galloping 
along the banks, by spectators in search of the 
picturesque, and ignorant of angling, supposed 
in the act of making your escape, with an in- 
comprehensible weapon in both hands, from 
some rural madhouse. 

Eh 1 eh? not in our hat — not in our waist- 
coat — not in our jacket — not in our breeches !' 
By the ghost of Autolycus some pickpocket, 
while we were moralizing, has abstracted our 
Lascelles ! we may as well tie a stone to eacti 
of our feet, and sink away from all sense eg 
N 



146 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



misery in the Salmon Pool. Oh ! that it had 
been our purse ! Who cares for a dozen dirty- 
sovereigns and a score of nasty notes 1 And 
what's the use of them to us now, or indeed at 
any time 1 And what's the use of this identi- 
cal rod? Hang it, if a little thing would not 
make us break it! A multiplying reel indeed ! 
The invention of a fool. The Tent sees not 
us again ; this afternoon we shall return to 
Edinburgh. Don't talk to us of flies at the 
next village. There are no flies at the village 
— there is no village. O Beelzebub ! O Satan ! 
was ever man tempted as we are tempted ? 
See — see a Fish — a fine Fish — an enormous 
Fish — leaping to insult us ! Give us our gun 
that we may shoot him — no — no, dang guns 
— and dang this great clumsy rod! There — 
let it lie there for the first person that passes — 
for we swear never to angle more. As for the 
Awe we never liked it — and wonder what in- 
fatuation brought us here. We shall be made 
to pay for this yet — whew ! there was a twinge 
— that big toe of ours we'll warrant is as red 
as fire, and we bitterly confess that we deserve 
the gout. Och ! och ! och ! 

But hark ! whoop and hollo, and is that too 
the music of the hunter's horn? Reverberat- 
ing among the woods a well-known voice sa- 
lutes our ear, and there ! bounds Hamish over 
the rocks like a chamois taking his pastime. 
Holding up our Lascelles ! he places it with 
a few respectful words — hoping we have not 
missed it — and standing aloof — leaves us to 
our own reflections and our flies. Nor do 
those amount to remorse — nor these to more 
than a few dozens. Samson's strength having 
been restored — we speak of our rod, mind ye, 
not of ourselves — we lift up our downcast eyes, 
and steal somewhat ashamed a furtive glance 
at the trees and stones, that must have over- 
heard and overseen all our behaviour. We 
leave those who have been in any thing like 
the same predicament to confess — not pub- 
licly — there is no occasion for that — nor on 
their knees —but to their own consciences, if 
they have any, their grief and their joy, their 
guilt, and, we hope, their gratitude. Trans- 
ported though they were beyond all bounds, we 
forgive them ; for even those great masters of 
wisdom, the Stoics, were not infallible, nor 
were they always able to sustain, at their ut- 
most strength, in practice the principles of 
their philosophy. 

We are in a bloody mood, and shall not 
leave this Pool — without twenty mortal mur- 
ders on our head. Jump away, Trouts — with- 
out any bowels of compassion for the race of 
flies. Devouring Ephemerals ! Can you not 
suffer the poor insects to sport out their day 1 
They must be insipid eating; but here are 
some savoury exceedingly — it rs needless to 
mention their name — that carry sauce piauante 
in their tails. Do try the taste of this bobber 
— but any one of the three you please. There ! 
hold fast Kirby — for that is a Whopper. A 
Mort ! we did not suppose there were any in 
the river. Why, he springs as if he were a 
Fishl Go it again, Beauty. We ourselves 
could jump a bit in our day — nearly four times 
mir own length — but we never could clear our 
own height, nor within half-a-foot of it; while 



you — our Hearty — though not two feet long ; 
certainly do the perpendicular to the tune of four 
— from tail-fin to water-surface — your snout 
being six nearer the sky than the foam-bells 
you break in your descent into ) r our native 
element. Cayenne, mustard, and ketchup is 
our zest, and we shall assuredly eat you at 
sunset. Do you know the name of the Fool 
at the other end — according to Dr. Johnson 1 
Christopher North. 'Tis an honour to be 
captured by the Old Knight of the Bloody 
Hand. You deserve to die such a death — for 
you keep in the middle of the current like a 
mort of mettle, and are not one of the skulkers 
that seek the side, and would fain take to the 
bush in hopes of prolonging life by foul en- 
tanglement. Bravely bored, Gil Morrice. There 
is as great difference in the moral qualities of 
the finny tribe as among us humans — and we 
have known some cowardly wretches escape 
our clutches by madly floundering in among 
floating weeds, or diving down among laby- 
rinths of stone at the bottom, in paroxysms of 
fear that no tackle could withstand, not even 
Mackenzie's. He has broke his heart. Feeble 
as the dying gladiator, the arena swims around 
him, and he around the arena — till sailing with 
snout shore-ward, at sea in his own pool, he 
absolutely rolls in convulsions in between our 
very feet, and we, unprepared for such a mode 
of procedure, hastily retreating, discover that 
our joints are not so supple as of yore, and 
play doit on our back among the gowans. 
O'Bronte tooths him by the cerebellum, and 
carries him up-brae in his mouth like a maw- 
kin. • About six pounds. 

Had we killed such a mort as is now in Ma- 
gog, fifty years ago, we should not have rested 
a single instant after basketing him, before re- 
rushing, with a sanguinary aspect, to the work 
of death. Now carelessly diffused, we lie on 
our elbow, with our mild cheek on our palm, 
and keep gazing — but not lack-a-daisically — on 
the circumambient woods. Yes ! circumam- 
bient — for look where we will, they accompany 
our ken like a peristrephic panorama. If men 
have been seen walking like trees, why may 
not trees be seen walking like men — in batta- 
lia — in armies — but oh ! how peaceful the ar- 
ray ; and as the slow silvan swimming away 
before our ej^es subsides and settles, in that 
steadfast variegation of colouring, what a depth 
of beauty and grandeur, of joy and peace! 

Phin! this rod is thy masterpiece. And 
what Gut ! There she has it ! Reel-music for 
ever! Ten fathom are run out already — and 
see how she shoots, Hamish ; — such a somer- 
set as that was never thrown from a spring- 
board. Just the size for strength and agility — 
twenty pound to an ounce — jimp weight, Ha- 
mish — ha ! Harlequin art thou— or Columbine 1 
Assuredly neither Clown nor Pantaloon. Now 
we have turned her ladyship's nose up the 
stream, her lungs, if she have any, must be be- 
ginning to labour, and we almost hear her 
snore. What! in the sulks already — sullen 
among the stones. But we shall make you 
mudge, madam, were we to tear the very tongue 
out of your mouth. Aye, once more down the 
middle to the tune of that spirited country- 
dance — "Off she goes!" Set corners, and 



THE MOORS. 



147 



reel! The gafF, Hamish — the gaff! and the 
landing-net! For here is a shallow of the sil- 
ver sand, spreading into the bay of a ford — and 
ere she recovers from her astonishment, here 
■will we land her — with a strong pull, a long 
pull, and a pull altogether — just on the edge 
of the greensward — and then smite her on 
the shoulder, Hamish — and, to make assurance 
doubly sure, the net under her tail, and hoist 
her aloft in the sunshine, a glorious prize, 
dazzling the daylight, and giving a brighter 
verdure to the woods. 

He who takes two hours to kill a fish — be its 
bulk what it may — is no man, and is not worth 
his meat, nor the vital air. The proportion is 
a minute to the pound. This rule were we 
taught by the " Best at Most" among British 
sportsmen — Scrope the Matchless on moor, 
mountain, river, loch, or sea; and with exqui- 
site nicety, have we now carried it into prac- 
tice. Away with your useless steelyards. Let 
us feel her teeth with our fore-finger, and then 
held out at arm's length — so — we know by 
feeling, that she is, as we said soon as we saw 
her side, a twenty pounder to a drachm, and 
we have been true to time within two seconds. 
She has literally no head ; but her snout is in 
her shoulders. That is the beauty of a fish — 
high and round shoulders, short waisted, no 
loins, but all body, and not long of terminating 
— the shorter still the better — in a tail sharp 
and pointed as Diana's, when she is crescent 
in the sky. 

And lo, and behold ! there is Diana — but not 
crescent — for round and broad is she as the 
sun himself — shining in the south, with as yet 
a needless light — for daylight has not gone 
down in the west — and we can hardly call it 
gloaming. Chaste and cold though she seem, 
a nunlike luminary who has just taken the 
veil — a transparent veil of fine fleecy clouds — 
yet, alas ! is she frail as of old, when she de- 
scended on the top of Latmos, to hold dalliance 
with Endymion. She has absolutely the ap- 
pearance of being in the family way — and not 
far from her time. Lo ! two of her children 
stealing from ether towards her feet. One on 
her right hand, and another on her left — the 
fairest daughters that ever charmed mother's 
heart — and in heaven called stars. "What a 
celestial trio the three form in the sky ! The 
face of the moon keeps brightening as the 
lesser two twinkle into larger lustre ; and now, 
though Day is still lingering, we feel that it is 
Night. When the one comes and when the 
other goes, what eye can note, what tongue can 
tell — but what heart feels not in the dewy hush 
divine, as the power of the beauty of earth de- 
cays over us, and a still dream descends upon 
us in the power of the beauty of heaven ! 

But hark ! the regular twang and dip of oars 
coming up the river — and lo ! indistinct in the 
distance, something moving through the moon- 
shine — and now taking the likeness of a boat — 
a barge — with bonnetted heads leaning back 
at every flashing stroke — and, Hamish, list! 
a choral song in thine own dear native tongue ! 
Sent hither by the Queen of the sea-fairies to 
bear back in state Christopher North to the 
Tent? No. 'Tis the big coble belonging to 
the tacksman of the Awe — and the crew are 



going to pull her through the first few hours 
of the night — along with the flowing tide — up 
to Kinloch-Etive, to try a cast with their long 
net at the mouth of the river, now winding dim 
like a snake from King's House beneath the 
Black Mount, and along the bays at the head 
of the Loch. A rumour that we were on the 
river had reached them — and see an awning of 
tartan over the stern, beneath which, as we sit, 
the sun may not smite our head by day, nor 
the moon by night. We embark — and descend- 
ing the river like a dream, rapidly but stilly, 
and kept in the middle of the current by cun- 
ning helmsman, without aid of idle oar, all six 
suspended, we drop along through the silvan, 
scenery, gliding serenely away back into the 
mountain gloom, and enter into the wider 
moonshine trembling on the wavy verdure of 
the foam-crested sea. May this be Loch-Etive ? 
Yea — verily; but so broad here is its bosom, 
and so far spreads the billowy brightness, that 
we might almost believe that our bark was 
bounding over the ocean, and marching mer- 
rily on the main. Are we — into such a dream 
might fancy for a moment half beguile herself 
— rowing back, after a day among the savage 
islanders, to our ship lying at anchor in the 
ofting, on a voyage of discovery round the 
world 1 ? 

Where are all the dogs ? Ponto, Piro, Basta, 
trembling partly with cold, partly with hunger, 
partly with fatigue, and partly with fear, among 
and below the seats of the rowers — with their 
noses somewhat uncomfortably laid between 
their fore-paws on the tarry timbers ; but 
O'Bronte boldly sitting at our side, and wist- 
fully eyeing the green swell as it heaves beau- 
tifully by, ready at the slightest signal to leap 
overboard, and wallow like a walrus in the 
brine, of which you might almost think he 
was born and bred, so native seems the element 
to the "Dowg o' Dowgs." Ay, these are sea- 
mews, O'Bronte, wheeling white as silver in 
the moonshine ; but we shall not shoot them — 
no — no — no — we will not shoot you, ye images 
of playful peace, so fearlessly, nay, so lovingly 
attending our bark as it bounds over the breasts 
of the billows, in motion quick almost as your 
slowest flight, while ye linger around, and be- 
hind, and before our path, like fair spirits wiling 
us along up this great Loch, farther and farther 
through gloom and glimmer, into the heart of 
profounder solitude. On what errands of your 
own are ye winnowing your way, stooping 
ever and anon just to dip your wing-tips in the 
waves, and then up into the open air — the blue 
light filling this magnificent hollow — or seen 
glancing along the shadows of the mountains 
as they divide the Loch into a succession of 
separate bays, and often seem to block it up, 
till another moonlight reach is seen extending 
far beyond, and carries the imagination on — on 
— on — into inland recesses that seem to lose at 
last all connection with the forgotten sea. All 
at once the moon is like a ghost ; — and we be- 
lieve — Heaven knows why — in the authenticity 
of Ossian's Poems. 

Was there ever such a man as Ossian ? We 
devoutly hope there was — for if so, then there 
were a prodigious number of fine fellows, be- 
sides his Bardship, who after their death figured 



148 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



away as their glimmering ghosts, with noble 
effect, among the moonlight mists of the moun- 
tains. The poetry of Ossian has, it is true, 
since the clays of Macpherson, in no way 
coloured the poetry of the island ; and Mr. 
Wordsworth, who has written beautiful lines 
about the old Phantom, states that fact as an 
argument against its authenticity. He thinks 
Ossian, as we now possess him, no poet; and 
alleges that if these compositions had been the 
good things so many people have thought 
them, they would, in some way or other, have 
breathed their spirit over the poetical genius 
of the land. Who knows that they may not 
do so yet? The time may not have come. 
But must all true poetry necessarily create imi- 
tation, and a school of imitators ? One sees 
no reason why it must. Besides, the life which 
the poetry of Ossian celebrates, has utterly 
passed away ; and the poetry itself, good, bad, 
or indifferent, is so very peculiar, that to imi- 
tate it at all, you must almost transcribe it. 
That, for a good many years, was often done, 
but naturally inspired any other feeling than 
delight or admiration. But the simple question 
is, Do the poems of Ossian delight greatly and 
widely ? We think they do. Nor catt we be- 
lieve that they would not still delight such a 
poet as Mr. Wordsworth. What dreariness 
overspreads them all ! What a melancholy 
spirit shrouds all his heroes, passing before us 
on the cloud, after all their battles have been 
fought, and their tombs raised on the hill ! The 
very picture of the old blind Hero-bard him- 
self, often attended by the weeping virgins 
whom war has made desolate, is always touch- 
ing, often sublime. The desert is peopled with 
lamenting mortals, and the mists that wrap 
them with ghosts, whose remembrances of this 
life are all dirge and elegy. True, that the 
images are few and endlessly reiterated ; but 
that, we suspect, is the case with all poetry 
composed not in a philosophic age. The great 
and constant appearances of nature suffice, in 
their simplicity, for all its purposes. The poet 
seeks not to vary their character, and his 
hearers are willing to be charmed over and 
over again by the same strains. We believe 
that the poetry of Ossian would be destroyed 
by any greater distinctness or variety of image- 
ry. And if, indeed, Fingal lived and Ossian 
sung, we must believe that the old bard was 
blind ; and we suspect that in such an age, 
such a man would, in his blindness, think 
dreamily indeed of the torrents, and lakes, and 
heaths, and clouds, and mountains, moons and 
stars, which he had leapt, swam, walked, 
climbed, and gazed on in the days of his re- 
joicing youth. Then has he'no tenderness — 
no pathos — no beauty. Alas for thousands of 
hearts and souls if it be even so! For then 
are many of their holiest dreams worthless all, 
and divinest melancholy a mere complaint of 
the understanding, which a bit of philosophi- 
cal criticism will purge away, as the leech's 
phial does a disease of the blood. 

Macpherson's Ossian, is itnotpoetry? Words- 
worth says it is not— but Christopher North 
says it is — with all reverence for the King. 
Let its antiquity be given up — let such a state 
of society as is therein described be declared 



impossible — let all the inconsistencies and 
violations of nature ever charged against it 
be acknowledged — let all its glaring plagiar- 
isms from poetry of modern date inspire what 
derision they may — and far worse the perpetual 
repetition of its own imbecilities and inanities, 
wearying one down even to disgust and anger; 
— yet, in spite of all, are we not made to feel, 
not only that we are among the mountains, but 
to forget that there is any other world in exist- 
ence, save that which glooms and glimmers, 
and wails and raves around us in mists and 
clouds, and storms, and snows — full of lakes 
and rivers, sea-intersected and sea-surrounded, 
with a sky as troublous as the earth — yet both 
at times visited with a mournful beauty that 
sinks strangely into the soul — while the sha- 
dowy life depictured there eludes notour human 
sympathies ; nor yet, aerial though they be — 
so sweet and sad are their voices — do there 
float by as unbeloved, unpitied, or unhonoured 
— single, or in bands — the ghosts of the brave 
and beautiful when the few stars are dim, and 
the moon is felt, not seen, to be yielding what 
faint light there may be in the skies. 

The boat in a moment is a bagpipe; and not 
only so, but all the mountains are bagpipes, 
and so are the clouds. All the bagpipes 
in the world are here, and they fill heaven 
and earth. 'Tis no exaggeration — much less 
a fiction — but the soul and body of truth. There 
Hamish stands stately at the prow; and as the 
boat hangs by midships on the very point that 
commands all the echoes, he fills the whole 
night with the " Campbells are coming," till the 
sky yells with the gathering as of all the Clans. 
His eyes are triumphantly fixed on ours to 
catch their emotions; his fingers cease their 
twinkling; and still that wild gathering keeps 
playing of itself among the mountains — faint- 
er and fainter, as it is flung from cliff to cliff, 
till it dies away far — far off— as if in infinitude 
— sweet even and soft in its evanescence as 
some lover's lute. 

We are now in the bay of Gleno. For though 
moonlight strangely alters the whole face of 
nature, confusing its most settled features, and 
with a gentle glamoury blending with the green- 
sward what once was the gray granite, and in- 
vesting with apparent woodiness what an hour 
ago was the desolation of herbless cliffs — yet 
not all the changes that wondrous nature, in 
ceaseless ebb and flow, ever wrought on her 
works, could metamorphose out of our recog- 
nition that Glen, in which, one night — long — 
long ago — 
" In life's morning march, when our spirit was young !" 

we were visited by a dream — a dream that 
shadowed forth in its inexplicable symbols the 
whole course of our future life — the graves — 
the tombs where many we loved are now 
buried — that churchyard, where we hope 
and believe that one day our own bones will 
rest. 

But who shouts from the shore, Hamish — 
and now, as if through his fingers, sends forth 
a sharp shrill whistle that pierces the sky? 
Ah, ha ! we ken his shadow in the light, with 
the roe on his shoulder. 'Tis the schoolmas- 
ter of Gleno, bringing down our quarry to the 



THE MOORS. 



M9 



boat — kilted, we declare, like a true Son of the 
Mist. The shore here is shelving but stony, 
and our prow is aground. But strong-spined 
and loined, and strong in their withers, are the 
M'Dougals of Lorn ; and, wading up to the red 
hairy knees, he has flung the roe into the boat, 
and followed it himself like a deer-hound. So 
bend to your oars, my hearties — my heroes — 
the wind freshens, and the tide strengthens from 
the sea ; and at eight knots an hour we shall 
sweep along the shadows, and soon see the 
lantern, twinkling as from a lighthouse, on the 
pole of our Tent. 

In a boat, upon a great sea-arm, at night, 
among mountains, who would be so senseless, 
so soulless as to speak? The hour has its 
might, 

" Because not of this noisy world, but silent and divine !" 
A sound there is in the sea-green swell, and 
the hollows of the rocks, that keep muttering, as 
their entrances feel the touch of the tide. But no- 
thing beneath the moon can be more solemn, now 
that her aspect is so wan, and that some melan- 
choly spirit has obscured the lustre of the stars. 
"We feel as if the breath of old elegiac poetry 
were visiting our slumber. All is sad within 
us, yet why we know not ; and the sadness is 
stranger as it is deeper after a day of almost 
foolish pastime, spent by a being who believes 
that he is immortal, and that this life is but the 
threshold of a life to come. Poor, puny, and 
paltry pastimes indeed are they all! But are 
they more so than those pursuits of which the 
moral poet has sung, 

" The paths of glory lead but to the grave !" 
Methinks, now, as we are entering into a sabler 
mass of shadow, that the doctrine of eternal pun- 
ishment of sins committed in time — but — 
" Here's a health to all good lasses, 

Here's a health to all good lasses, 

Pledge it merrily, till your glasses; 

Let the bumper toast go round, 

Let the bumper toast go round !" 

Rest on your oars, lads. Hamish ! the quech! 
give each man a caulker, that his oar may send 
a bolder twang from its rollock, and our fish- 
coble walk the waves like a man-of-war's gig, 
with the captain on board, going ashore, after 
a long cruise, U>meet his wife. Now she spins ! 
and lo ! lights at Kinloch-Etive, and beyond on 
the breast of the mountain, bright as Hesperus 
— the pole-star of our Tent! 

Well, this is indeed the Londe of Faery ! A 
car with a nag caparisoned at the water edge ! 
On with the roe, and in with Christopher and 
the fish. Now, Hamish, hand us the Crutch. 
After a cast or two, which, may they be success- 
ful as the night is auspicious, your presence, 
gentlemen, will be expected in the Tent. Now, 
Hamish, handle thou the ribbons — alias the 
hair-tether — and we will touch him behind, 
should he linger, with a weapon that might 

" Create a soul under the ribs of death." 
Linger! why the lightning flies from his heels, 
as he carries us along a fine natural causeway, 
like Ossian's car-borne heroes. From the size 



and state of the stones over which we make 
such a clatter, we shrewdly suspect that the 
parliamentary grant for destroying the old 
Highland torrent-roads has not extended its 
ravages to Glen-Etive. O'Bronte, 

?• Like panting Time, toils after us in vain ;" 

and the pointers are following us by our own 
scent, and that of the roe, in the distant dark- 
ness. Pull up, Hamish, pull up, or otherwise 
we shall overshoot our mark, and meet with 
some accident or other, perhaps a capsize on 
Bachaille-Etive, or the Black Mount. We had 
no idea the circle of greensward in front of the 
Tent was so spacious. Why, there is room 
for the Lord Mayor of London's state-coach to 
turn with its eight horses, and that enormous 
ass, Parson Dillon, on the. dickey. What could 
have made us think at this moment of London ! 
Certes, the association of ideas is a droll thing, 
and also sometimes most magnificent. Dancing 
in the Tent, among strange figures ! Celebra- 
tion of the nuptials of some Arab chief, in an 
oasis in the Great Desert of Stony Arabia ! 
Heavens ! look at Tickler ! How he hauls the 
Hizzies ! There is no time to be lost — he and 
the Admiral must not have all the sport to 
themselves ; and, by and by, spite of age and 
infirmity, we shall show the Tent a touch of 
the Highland Fling. Hollo ! you landloupers ! 
Christopher is upon you — behold the Tenth 
Avatar incarnated in North. 

But what Apparitions at the Tent-door sa- 
lute our approach ] 

"Back step these two fair angels, half afraid 
So suddenly to see the Griesly King!" 

Goat-herdesses from the cliffs of Glencreran 
or Glenco, kilted to the knee, and not uncon- 
scious of their ankles, one twinkle of which is 
sufficient to bid "Begone dull care" for ever. 
One hand on a shoulder of each of the moun- 
tain-nymphs — sweet liberties — and then em- 
braced by both, half in their arms, and half 
on their bosoms, was ever Old Man so plea- 
santly let down from triumphal car, on the 
soft surface of his mother-earth? Ay, there 
lies the Red-deer! and what heaps of smaller 
slain ! But was there ever such a rush of 
dogs ! We shall be extinguished. Down, 
dogs, down — nay, ladies and gentlemen, be 
seated — on one another's knees as before — we 
beseech you — we are but men like yourselves 
— and 

"Without the smile from partial beauty won, 
Oh! what were man 1 — a world without a sun!" 

What it is to be the darling of gods and 
men, and women and children ! Why, the 
very stars burn brighter — and thou, O Moon ! 
art like the Sun. We foresee a night of danc- 
ing and drinking — till the mountain-dew melt 
in the lustre of morn. Such a day should 
have a glorious death — and a glorious resur 
rection. Hurra! Hurra! 

The Moors for ever ! The Moors ! Thk 
Moors ! 



i2 



150 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



HIGHLAND SNOW-STORM. 



What do you mean by original genius 1 By 
♦.hat fine line in the Pleasures of Hope — 
"To muse on Nature with a poet's eye?" 
Why — genius — one kind of it at least — is 
transfusion of self into all outward things. 
The genius that does that — naturally, but no- 
velly — is original ; and now you know the 
meaning of one kind of original genius. Have 
we, then, Christopher North, that gift] Have 
you 1 Yea, both of Us. Our spirits animate 
the insensate earth, till she speaks, sings, 
smiles, laughs, weeps, sighs, groans, goes 
mad, and dies. Nothing easier, though per- 
haps it is wicked, than for original genius like 
ours, or yours, to drive the earth to distraction. 
We wave our wizard hand thus — and lo ! list ! 
she is insane. How she howls to heaven, and 
how the maddened heaven howls back her 
frenzy ! Two dreadful maniacs raging apart, 
but in communion, in one vast bedlam ! The 
drift-snow spins before the hurricane, hissing 
like a nest of serpents let loose to torment the 
air. What fierce flakes ! furies ! as if all the 
wasps that ever stung had been revivified, and 
were now careering part and parcel of the 
tempest. We are in a Highland Hut in the 
midst of mountains. But no land is to be seen 
any more than if we were in the middle of the 
sea. Yet a wan glare shows that the snow- 
storm is strangely shadowed by superincum- 
bent cliffs; and though you cannot see, you 
hear the mountains. Rendings are going on, 
frequent, over your head — and all around the 
blind wilderness — the thunderous tumblings 
down of avalanches, mixed with the moan- 
ing.-;, shriekings, and yellings of caves, as if 
spirits there were angry with the snow-drift 
choking up the fissures and chasms in the 
cliff's. Is that the creaking and groaning, and 
rocking and tossing of old trees, afraid of be- 
ing uprooted and flung into the spate? 

"Red comes the river down, and loud and oft 
The angry spirit of the water shrieks," 

more fearful than at midnight in this nightlike 
day — whose meridian is a total sun eclipse. 
The river runs by, bloodlike, through the 
snow- -and, short as is the reach you can 
see through the flaky gloom, that short reach 
shows that all his course must be terrible — 
more and more terrible — as, gathering his 
streams like a chieftain his clan — erelong he 
will sweep shieling, and hut, and hamlet to 
the sea, undermining rocks, cutting mounds 
asunder, and blowing up bridges that explode 
into the air with a roar like that of cannon. 
You sometimes think you hear thunder, though 
you know that cannot be — but sublimer than 
thunder is the nameless noise so like that of 
agonized life — that eddies far and wide around 
—high and huge above — fear all the while be- 
ing at the bottom of your heart — an objectless, 
r'im dreary, undefinable fear, whose troubled 



presence — if any mortal feeling be so— is 
sublime. Your imagination is troubled, and 
dreams of death, but of no single corpse, of 
no single grave. Nor fear you for yourself — 
for the Hut in which you thus enjoy the storm, 
is safer than the canopied cliff-calm of the 
eagle's nest; but your spirit is convulsed from 
its deepest and darkest foundations, and all 
that lay hidden there of the wild and wonder- 
ful, the pitiful and the strange, the terrible and 
pathetic, is now upturned in dim confusion, 
and imagination, working among the hoarded 
gatherings of the heart, creates out of them 
moods kindred and congenial with the hurri- 
cane, intensifying the madness of the heaven 
and the earth, till that which sees and that 
which is seen, that which hears and that 
which is heard, undergo alternate mutual 
transfiguration ; and the blind Roaring Day — 
at once substance, shadow, and soul — is felt 
to be one with ourselves — the blended whole 
either the Live-Dead, or the Dead-Alive. 

We are in a Highland Hut — if we called it 
a Shieling we did so merely because we love 
the sound of the word Shieling, and the image 
it at once brings to eye and ear — the rustling 
of leaves on a summer silvan bower, by sim- 
ple art slightly changed from the form of the 
growth of nature, or the waving of fern on the 
turf-roof and turf-walls, all covered with wild- 
flowers and mosses, and moulded by one sin- 
gle season into a knoll-like beauty, beside its 
guardian birch-tree, insupportable to all evil 
spirits, but with its silvery stem and drooping 
tresses dear to the Silent People that won in 
the land of peace. Truly this is not the sweet 
Shieling-season, when, far away from all other 
human dwellings, on the dip of some great 
mountain, quite at the head of a day's-journey- 
long glen, the young herdsman, haply all ak.ne, 
without one single being with him that has the 
use of .speech, liveth for months retired far 
from kirk and cross — Luath his sole compa- 
nion — his sole care the pasturing heids — the 
sole sounds he hears the croak of the laven on 
the cliff, or bark of the eagle in the sky. O 
sweet, solitary lot of lover! Haply in some 
oasis in the wilderness, some steadfast gleam 
of emerald light amid the hyacinthine-hue of 
the heather, that young herdsman hath pitched 
his tent, by one Good Spirit haunted morning, 
noon, and night, through the sunny, moonlight, 
starry months,— the Orphan-girl, whom years 
ago her dying father gave into his arms — the 
old blind soldier — knowing that the boy would 
shield her innocence when every blood-rela- 
tion had been buried — now Orphan-girl no 
more, but growing there like a lily at the 
Shieling door, or singing within sweetlier than 
any bird — the happiest of all living things— 
her own Ronald's dark-haired Bride. 

We are in a Highland Hut among a High- 
land Snow-storm — and all at once amidst the 



HIGHLAND SNOW-STORM. 



151 



roar of the merciless hurricane we remember 
the words of Burns — the peerless Peasant. 
Simple as they are, with what profound pathos 
are they charged ! 

"List'ning the doors an' winnocks rattle ; 
I think me on the ourie cattle, 
Or silly sheep, wha bide this brattle 

O' winter war, 
And thro' the drift, deep-lairing sprattle, 

Beneath a scaur! 

"Ilk happing bird, wee, helpless thing, 
That, in the merry months o' spring, 
Delighted me to hear thee sing, 

What comes o' thee ? 
Whar wilt thou cow'r thy chittering wing 

An' close thy e'e? 

"Ev'n you on murdering errands toil'd, 
Lone from your savage homes exiled, 
The blood-stain'd roost, and sheep-cot spoil'd, 

My heart forgets, 
While pitiless the tempest wild 

Sore on you beats." 

Burns is our Lowland bard — but poetry is 
poetry all over the world, when streamed from 
the life-blood of the human heart. So sang 
the Genius of inspired humanity in his bleak 
" auld clay-biggin," on one of the braes of 
Coila, and now our heart responds the strain, 
high up among the Celtic cliffs, central among 
a sea of mountains hidden in a snow-storm 
that enshrouds the day. Ay — the one single 
door of this Hut — the one single " winnock," 
does " rattle" — by fits — as the blast smites it, 
in spite of the white mound drifted hill-high all 
round the buried dwelling. Dim through the 
peat-reek cower the figures in tartan — fear has 
hushed the cry of the infant in the swinging 
cradle — and all the other imps are mute. But 
the household is thinner than usual at the 
meal-hour; and feet that loved to follow the 
red-deer along the bent, now fearless of pit- 
falls, since the first lour of morning light have 
been traversing the tempest. The shepherds, 
who sit all day long when summer hues are 
shining, and summer flowerets are blowing, 
almost idle in their plaids, beneath the shadow 
of some rock watching their flocks feeding 
above, around, and below, now expose their 
bold breasts to all the perils of the pastoral 
life. This is our Arcadia — a realm of wrath 
— wo — danger, and death. Here are bred the 
men whose blood — when the bagpipe blows — 
is prodigally poured forth on a thousand shores. 
The limbs strung to giant-force by such snows 
as these, moving in line of battle within the 
shadow of the Pyramids, 

"Brought from the dust the sound of liberty," 
while the Invincible standard was lowered be- 
fore, the heroes of the Old Black Watch, and 
victory out of the very heart of defeat arose on 
" that thrice-repeated cry" that quails all foes 
that madly rush against the banners of Albyn. 
The storm that has frozen in his eyry the eagle's 
wing, driven the deer to the comb beneath the 
cliffs, and all night imprisoned the wild-cat in 
his cell, hand in hand as is their wont when 
crossing a stream or flood, bands of Highland- 
ers now face in its strongholds all over the 
ranges of mountains, come it from the wrath- 
ful inland or the more wrathful sea. 

"They think upon the ourie cattle 
And silly sheep," 

and man's reason goes to the help of brute in- 
stinct. 



How passing sweet is that other stanza, 
heard like a low hymn amidst the noise of the 
tempest ! Let our hearts once more recite it — 
" Ilk happing bird, wee, helpless thing, 
That, in the merry months o' spring, 
Delighted me to hear thee sing, 
What comes o' thee 1 
Whar wilt thou cow'r thy chittering wing, 
An' close thy e'e?" 

The whole earth is for a moment green 
again — trees whisper — streamlets murmur — 
and the "merry month o' spring" is musical 
through all her groves. But in another mo- 
ment we know that almost all those sweet- 
singers are now dead — or that they " cow'r the 
chittering wing" — never more to flutter through 
the woodlands, and "close the e'e" that shall 
never more be reillumined with love, when 
the Season of Nests is at hand, and bush, tree, 
and tower are again all a-twitter with the sur- 
vivors of some gentler climate. 

The poet's heart, humanized to utmost ten- 
derness by the beauty of its own merciful 
thoughts, extends its pity to the poor beasts of 
prey. Each syllable tells — each stroke of the 
poet-painter's pencil depicts the life and suf- 
ferings of the wretched creatures. And then, 
feeling that such an hour all life is subject to 
one lot, how profound the pathos reflected back 
upon our own selves and our mortal condition, 
by these few simplest words — 

" My heart forgets, 
While pitiless the tempest wild 
Sore on you beats !" 

They go to help the "ourie cattle" and the 
" silly sheep ;" but who knows that they are 
not sent on an errand of higher mercy, by Him 
whose ear has not been shut to the prayer al- 
most frozen on the lips of them about to 
perish ! — an incident long forgotten, though on 
the eve of that day on which the deliverance 
happened, so passionately did we all regard it, 
that w r e felt that interference providential — as 
if we had indeed seen the hand of God stretch- 
ed down through the mist and snow from 
heaven. We all said that it would never leave 
our memory ; yet all of us soon forgot it — but 
now while the tempest howls, it seems again 
of yesterday. 

One family lived in Glencreran, and another 
in Glenco — the families of two brothers — sel- 
dom visiting each other on working-days — 
seldom meeting even on Sabbaths, for theirs 
was not the same parish-kirk — seldom coming 
together on rural festivals or holydays, for in 
the Highlands now these are not so frequent 
as of yore ; yet all these sweet seldoms, taken 
together, to loving hearts made a happy many, 
and thus, though each family passed its life in 
its own home, there were many invisible 
threads stretched out through the intermediate 
air, connecting the two dwellings together — 
as the gossamer keeps floating from one tree 
to another, each with its own secret nest. 
And nestlike both dwellings were. That in 
Glenco, built beneath a treeless but high- 
heathered rock — lown in all storms — with 
greensward and garden on a slope down to a 
rivulet, the clearest of the clear, (oh! once 
wofully reddened !) and growing — so it seems 
in the mosses of its own roof, and the huge 
stones that overshadow it — out of the earth 



152 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



That in Glencreran, more conspicuous, on a 
knoll among the pastoral meadows, midway 
between mountain and mountain, so that the 
grove which shelters it, except when the sun 
is shining high, is darkened by their meeting 
shadows, and dark indeed even in the sunshine, 
for 'tis a low but wide-armed grove of old oak- 
like pines. A little further down, and Glen- 
creran is very silvan ; but this dwelling is the 
highest up of all, the first you descend upon, 
near the foot of that wild hanging staircase 
between you and Glen-Etive ; and except this 
old oaklike grove of pines, there is not a tree, 
and hardly a bush, on bank or brae, pasture 
or hay-field, though these are kept by many a 
rill there mingling themselves into one stream, 
in a perpetual lustre, that seems to be as na- 
tive to the grass as its light is to the glow- 
worm. Such are the two Huts— for they are 
huts and no more — and you may see them still, 
if you know how to discover the beautiful 
sights of nature from descriptions treasured in 
your heart— and if the spirit of change, now 
nowhere at rest on the earth, not even in its 
most solitary places, have not swept from the 
scenes they beautified the humble but heredi- 
tary dwellings that ought to be allowed, in the 
fulness of the quiet time, to relapse back into 
the bosom of nature, through insensible and 
un perceived decay. 

These Huts belonged to brothers — and each 
had an only child — a son and a daughter — 
born on the same day — and now blooming on 
the verge of youth. A year ago, and they 
were but mere children — but what wondrous 
growth of frame and spirit does nature at that 
season of life often present before our eyes ! 
So that we almost see the very change going 
on between morn and morn, and feel that 
these objects of our affection are daily brought 
closer to ourselves, by partaking daily more 
and more in all our most sacred thoughts, in our 
cares and in our duties, and in knowledge of 
the sorrows as well as the joys of our common \ 
lot. Thus had these cousins grown up be- j 
fore their parent's eyes, Flora Macdonald — a | 
name hallowed of yore — the fairest, and Ra- 
nald Cameron, the boldest of all the living 
flowers in Glenco and Glencreran. It was now 
their seventeenth birthday, and never had a 
winter sun smiled more serenely over a hush 
of snow. Flora, it had been agreed on, was to 
pass 'hat day in Glencreran, and Ranald to 
meet her among the mountains, that he might 
bring her down the many precipitous passes 
to his parent's hut. It was the middle of 
February, and the snow had lain for weeks 
with all its drifts unchanged, so calm had been 
the weather, and so continued the frost. At 
the same hour, known by horologe on the cliff 
touched by the finger of dawn, the happy crea- 
tures left each their own glen, and mile after 
mile of the smooth surface glided away past 
their feet, almost as the quiet water glides by 
the little boat that in favouring breezes walks 
merrily along the sea. And soon they met 
at the trysting-place — a bank of birch-trees 
beneath a cliff that takes its name from the 
Eagles. 

On their meeting seemed not to them the 
whole of nature suddenly inspired with joy 



and beauty 1 Insects unheard by them before, 
hummed and glittered in the air — from tree 
roots, where the snow was thin, little flowers, 
or herbs flower-like, now for the first time were 
seen looking out as if alive — the trees them- 
selves seemed budding as if it were already 
spring — and rare as in that rocky region are 
the birds of song, a faint trill for a moment 
touched their ears, and the flutter of a wing, 
telling them that somewhere near there was 
preparation for a nest. Deep down beneath 
the snow they listened to the tinkle of rills 
unreached by the frost — and merry, thought 
they, was the music of these contented prison- 
ers. Not summer's self, in its deepest green, 
so beautiful had ever been to them before, as 
now the mild white of Winter; and as their 
eyes were lifted up to heaven, when had they 
ever seen before a sky of such perfect blue, a 
sun so gentle in its brightness, or altogether a 
week-day in any season so like a Sabbath in 
its stillness, so like a holyday in its joy ! 
Lovers were they — although as yet they 
scarcely knew it; for from love only could 
have come such bliss as now was theirs, a 
bliss that while it beautified was felt to come 
from the skies. 

Flora sang to Ranald many of her old songs 
to those wild Gaelic, airs that sound like the 
sighing of winds among fractured cliffs, or the 
branches of storm-tossed trees when the sub- 
siding tempest is about to let them rest. Mo- 
notonous music ! but irresistible over the heart 
it has once awakened and enthralled, so sin- 
cere seems to be the mournfulness it breathes 
— a mournfulness brooding on the same note 
that is at once its natural expression and its 
sweetest aliment — of which the singer never 
wearieth in her dream, while her heart all the 
time is haunted by all that is most piteous, by 
the faces of the dead in their paleness return- 
ing to the shades of life, only that once more 
they may pour from their fixed eyes those 
strange showers of unaccountable tears ! 

How merry were they between those mourn- 
ful airs ! How Flora trembled to see her 
lover's burning brow and flashing eyes, as he 
told her tales of great battles fought in foreign 
lands, far across the sea — tales which he had 
drank in with greedy ears from the old heroes 
scattered all over Lochaber and Badenoch, on 
the brink of the grave still garrulous of blood ! 

"The sun sat high in his meridian tower," 
but time had not been with the youthful lovers, 
and the blessed beings believed that 'twas but 
a little hour since beneath the Eagle Cliff they 
had met in the prime of the morn ! 

The boy starts to his feet — and his keen eye 
looks along the ready rifle — for his sires had 
all been famous deer-stalkers, and the passion 
of the chase was hereditary in his blood. Lo ! 
i a deer from Dalness, hound-driven or sullenly 
j astray, slowly bearing his antlers up the glen, 
then stopping for a moment to snuff the air, 
and then away — away! The rifle-shot rings 
dully from the scarce echoing snow-cliffs, and 
the animal leaps aloft, struck by' a certain but 
not sudden death-wound. Oh ! for Fingal now 
to pull him down like a wolf! But labouring 
and lumbering heavily along, the snow spotted 



HIGHLAND SNOW-STORM. 



153 



as he bounds with blood, the huge animal at 
last disappears round some rocks at the head 
of the glen. " Follow me, Flora !" the bo)'- 
hunter cries — and flinging down their plaids, 
they turn their bright faces to the mountain, 
and away up the long glen after the stricken 
deer. Fleet was the mountain-girl — and Ra- 
nald, as he ever and anon looked back to wave 
her on, with pride admired her lightsome mo- 
tion as she bounded along the snow. Redder 
and redder grew that snow, and more heavily 
trampled as they winded round the rocks. 
Yonder is the deer staggering up the mountain, 
not half a mile off — now standing at bay, as if 
before his swimming eyes came Fingal, the 
terror of the forest, whose howl was known to 
all the echoes, and quailed the herd while their 
antlers were yet afar off. "Rest, Flora! rest! 
while I fly to him with my rifle — and shoot him 
through the heart !" 

Up — up — up the interminable glen, that kept 
winding and winding round many a jutting 
promontory, and many a castellated cliff, the 
red-deer kept dragging his gore-oozing bulk, 
sometimes almost within, and then, for some 
hundreds of yards, just beyond rifle-shot ; while 
the boy, maddened by the chase, pressed for- 
wards, now all alone, nor any more looking 
behind for Flora, who had entirely disappeared,; 
and thus he was hurried on for miles by the 
whirlwind of passion — till at last he struck the 
noble quarry, and down sank the antlers in the 
snow, while the air was spurned by the con- 
vulsive beatings of feet. Then leaped Ranald 
upon the Red-deer like a beast of prey, and lift- 
ed up a look of triumph to the mountain tops. 

Where is Flora? Her lover has forgotten 
her — and he is alone — nor knows it — he and 
the Red-deer — an enormous animal — fast stif- 
fening in the frost of death. 

Some large flakes of snow are in the air, and 
they seem to waver and whirl, though an hour 
ago there was not a breath. Faster they fall and 
faster — the flakes are almost as large as leaves 
— and overhead whence so suddenly has come 
that huge yellow cloud 1 "Flora, where are 
you? where are you, Floral" and from the huge 
hide the boy leaps up, and sees that no Flora is 
at hand. But yonder is a moving speck far off 
upon the snow ! 'Tis she — 'tis she — and again 
Ranald turns his eyes upon the quarry, and the 
heart of the hunter burns within him like a new- 
stirred fire. Shrill as the eagle's cry disturbed 
in his eyry, he sends a shout down the glen — 
and Flora, with cheeks pale and bright by fits, 
is at last at his side. Panting and speechless 
she stands — and then' dizzily sinks on his 
breast. Her hair is ruffled by the wind that 
revives her, and her face all moistened by the 
snow-flakes, now not falling but driven — for the 
day has undergone a dismal change, and all 
over the skies are now lowering savage symp- 
toms of a fast-coming night-storm. 

Bare is poor Flora's head, and sadly drenched 
her hair, that an hour or two ago glittered in 
the sunshine. Her shivering frame misses 
now the warmth of the plaid, which almost no 
cold can penetrate, and which had kept the 
vital current flowing freely in many a bitter 
blast. What would the miserable boy give 
now for the coverings lying far away, which, in 
20 



his foolish passion, he flung down to chase that 
fatal deer! "Oh! Flora! if you would not 
fear to stay here by yourself— under the pro- 
tection of God, who surely will not forsake you 
— soon will I go and come from the place 
where our plaids are lying; and under the 
shelter of the deer we may be able to outlive 
the hurricane — you wrapt up in them — and 
folded — O my dearest sister — in my arms !" 
— "I will go with you down the glen, Ranald!" 
and she left his breast — but, weak as a day-old 
lamb, tottered and sank down on the snow. 
The cold — intense as if the air were ice — had 
chilled her very heart, after the heat of that 
long race ; and it was manifest that here she 
must be for the night — to live or to die. And 
the night seemed already come, so full was the 
lift of snow; while the glimmer every moment 
became gloomier, as if the day were expiring 
long before its time. Howling at a distance 
down the glen was heard a sea-born tempest 
from the Linnhe-Loch, where now they both 
knew the tide was tumbling in, bringing with 
it sleet and snow blasts from afar ; and from 
the opposite quarter of the sky, an inland tem- 
pest was raging to meet it, while every lesser 
glen had its own uproar, so that on all hands 
they were environed with death. 

" I will go — and, till I return, leave you with 
God." — " Go, Ranald !" and he went and came 
— as if he had been endowed with the raven's 
wings ! 

Miles away — and miles back had he flown 
— and an hour had not been with his going 
and his coming — but what a dreary wretched- 
ness meanwhile had been hers ! She feared 
that she was dying — that the cold snow-storm 
was killing her — and that she would never 
more see Ranald, to say to him farewell. Soon 
as he was gone, all her courage had died. 
Alone, she feared death, and wept to think how 
hard it was for one so young thus miserably 
to die. He came — and her whole being was 
changed. Folded up in both the plaids — she 
felt resigned. "Oh! kiss me — kiss me, Ra- 
nald — for your love — great as it is — is not as 
my love. You must never forget me, Ranald 
— when your poor Flora is dead." 

Religion with these two young creatures 
was as clear as the light of the Sabbath-day — 
and their belief in heaven just the same as in 
earth. The will of God they thought of just 
as they thought of their parents' will — and the 
same was their loving obedience to its decrees. 
If she was to die — supported now by the pre- 
sence of her brother — Flora was utterly re- 
signed; if she were to live, her heart imaged 
to itself the very forms of her grateful wor- 
ship. But all at once she closed her eyes- 
ceased breathing — and, as the tempest hevded 
and rumbled in the gloom that fell aiound 
them like blindness, Ranald almost sank down, 
thinking that she was dead. 

"Wretched sinner that I am! — my wicked 
madness brought her here to die of cold!" 
And he smote his breast — and tore his hair- 
and feared to look up, lest the angry eye of 
God were looking on him through the storm. 

All at once, without speaking a word, Ra- 
nald lifted Flora in his arms, and walked away 
up the glen — here almost narrowed into a 



154 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



pass. Distraction gave him • supernatural 
strength, and her weight seemed that of a child. 
Some walls of what had once been a house, he 
had suddenly remembered, were but a short 
way off— whether or not they had any roof, he 
had forgotten ; but the thought even of such 
shelter seemed a thought of salvation. There 
it was — a snow-drift at the opening that had 
once been a door — snow up the holes once 
windows — the wood of the roof had been car- 
ried off for fuel, and the snow-flakes were 
falling in, as if they would soon fill up the 
inside of the ruin. The snow in front was all 
trampled as if by sheep; and carrying in his 
burden under the low lintel, he saw the place 
was filled with a flock that had foreknown the 
hurricane, and that all huddled together looked 
on him as on the shepherd come to see how 
they were faring in the storm. 

And a young shepherd he was, with a lamb 
apparently dying in his arms. All colour — all 
motion — all breath seemed to be gone — and yet 
something convinced his heart that she was 
yet alive. The ruined hut was roofless, but 
across an angle of the walls some pine- 
branches had been flung as a sort of shelter 
for the sheep or cattle that might repair thither 
in cruel weather — some pine-branches left by 
the woodcutters who had felled the few trees 
that once stood at the very head of the glen. 
Into that corner the snow-drift had not yet 
forced its way, and he sat down there with 
Flora in the cherishing of his embrace, hoping 
that the warmth of his distracted heart might 
be felt by her who was as cold as a corpse. 
The chill air was somewhat softened by the 
breath of the huddled flock, and the edge of the 
cutting wind blunted by the stones. It was a 
place in which it seemed possible that she 
might revive— miserable as it was with mire- 
mixed snow — and almost as cold as one sup- 
poses the grave. And she did revive — and 
under the half-open lids the dim blue appeared 
to be not yet life-deserted. It was yet but the 
afternoon — nightlike though it was — and he 
thought, as he, breathed upon her lips, that a 
faint red returned, and that they felt the kisses 
he dropt on them to drive death away. 

"Oh! father, go seek for Ranald, for I 
dreamt to-night he was perishing in the 
snow!" — "Flora, fear not — God is with us." 
— "Wild swans, they say, are come to Loch- 
Phoil — let us go, Ranald, and see them — but 
no rifle — for why kill creatures said to be so 
beautiful ]" Over them where they lay, bended 
down the pine-branch roof, as if it would give 
way beneath the increasing weight ; — but there 
it still hung — though the drift came over their 
feet and up to their knees, and seemed stealing 
upwards to be their shroud. " Oh ! I am over- 
come with drowsiness, and fain would be 
allowed to sleep. Who is disturbing me — and 
what noise is this in our house ?" — " Fear not 
— fear not, Flora — God is with us." — " Mother ! 
am I lying in your arms? My father surely 
is not in the storm ! Oh ! I have had a most 
dreadful dream !" and with such mutterings as 
these Flora relapsed again into that perilous 
sleep — which soon becomes that of death. 

Night itself came — but Flora and Ranald 
V new it not — and both lay now motionless in 



one snow-shroud. Many passions — though 
earth-born, heavenly all — pity, and grief, and 
love, and hope, and at last despair — had pros- 
trated the strength they had so long supported; 
and the brave boy — who had been for some 
time feeble as a very child after a fever — with 
a mind confused and wandering, and in its 
perplexities sore afraid of some nameless ill, 
had submitted to lay down his head beside his 
Flora's, and had soon become like her insen- 
sible to the night and all its storms ! 

Bright was the peat-fire in the hut of Flora's 
parents in Glenco — and they were among the 
happiest of the humble happy, blessing this 
the birthday of their blameless child. They 
thought of her singing her sweet songs by the 
fireside of the hut in Glencreran — and tender 
thoughts of her cousin Ranald were with them 
in their prayers. No warning came to their 
ears in the sugh or the howl ; for Fear it is 
that creates its own ghosts, and all its own 
ghostlike visitings, and they had seen their 
Flora in the meekness of the morning, setting 
forth on her way over the quiet mountains, 
like a fawn to play. Sometimes, too, Love, who 
starts at shadows as if they were of the grave, 
is strangely insensible to realities that might 
well inspire dismay. So was it now with the 
dwellers in the hut at the head of Glencreran* 
Their Ranald had left them in the morning — 
night had come, and he and Flora were not 
there — but the day had been almost like a sum- 
mer-day, and in their infatuation they never 
doubted that the happy creatures had changed 
their minds, and that Flora had returned with 
him to Glenco. Ranald had laughingly said, 
that haply he might surprise the people in that 
glen by bringing back to them Flora on her 
birthday — and strange though it afterwards 
seemed to her to be, that belief prevented one 
single fear from touching his mother's heart, 
and she and her husband that night lay down 
in untroubled sleep. 

And what could have been done for them, 
had they been told by some good or evil spirit 
that their children were in the clutches of such 
a night? As well seek for a single bark in the 
middle of the misty main ! But the inland 
storm had been seen brewing among the moun- 
tains round King's House, and hut had com- 
municated with hut, though far apart in re- 
gions where the traveller sees no symptoms of 
human life. Down through the long cliff-pass 
of Mealanumy, between Buchael-Etive and 
the Black-Mount, towards the lone House of 
Dalness, that lives in everlasting shadows, 
went a band of shepherds, trampling their 
way across a hundred frozen streams. Dalness 
joined its strength — and then away over the 
drift-bridged chasms toiled that Gathering, with 
their sheep-dogs scouring the loose snows — in 
the van, Fingal the Red Reaver, with his head 
aloft on the look-out for deer, grimly eyeing 
the Correi where last he tasted blood. All 
" plaided in their tartan array," these shepherds 
laughed at the storm — and hark ! you hear the 
bag-pipe play — the music the Highlanders love 
both in war and in peace. 

"They think then of the ourie cattle, 
And silly sheep;" 

and though they ken 'twill be a moonless night 



HIGHLAND SNOW-STORM. 



155 



— for the snow-storm will sweep her out of 
heaven — up the moqntain and down the glen 
they go, marking where flock and herd have 
betaken themselves, and now, at night-fall, un- 
afraid of that blind hollow, they descend into 
the depth where once stood the old Grove of 
Pines. Following the dogs, who know their 
duties in their instinct, the band, without see- 
ing it, are now close to that ruined hut. Why 
bark the sheep-dogs so — and why howls Fingal, 
as if some spirit passed athwart the night] 
He scents the dead body of the boy who so 
often had shouted him on in the forest, when 
the antlers went by! Not dead — nor dead she 
who is on his bosom. Yet life in both is frozen 
— and will the iced blood in their veins ever 
again be thawed 1 Almost pitch-dark is the 
roofless ruin — and the frightened sheep know 
not what is the terrible Shape that is howling 
there. But a man enters, and lifts up one of 
the bodies, giving it into the arms of them at 
the doorway — and then lifts up the other; and, 
by the flash of a rifle, they see that it is Ranald 
Cameron and Flora Macdonald, seemingly 
both frozen to death. Some of those reeds 
that the shepherds burn in their huts are kin- 
dled, and in that small light they are assured 
that such are the corpses. But that noble dog 
knows that death is not there — and licks the 
face of Ranald, as if he would restore life to 
his eyes. Two of the shepherds know well 
how to fold the dying in their plaids — how 
gentliest to carry them along; for they had 
learnt it on the field of victorious battle, when, 
without stumbling over the dead and wounded, 
they bore away the shattered body — yet living 
— of the youthful warrior, who had shown that 
of such a Clan he was worthy to be the Chief. 
The storm was with them all the way down 
the glen— nor could they have heard each 
other's voices had they spoke — but mutely they 
shifted the burden from strong hand to hand — 
thinking of the Hut in Glenco, and of what 
would be felt there on their arrival with the 
dying or dead. Blind people walk through 
what to them is the night of crowded day- 
streets — unpausing turn round corners — un- 
hesitatingly plunge down steep stairs — wind 
their way fearlessly through whirlwinds of life 
— and reach in their serenity, each one un- 
harmed, his own obscure house. For God is 
with the blind. So is he with all who walk on 
■works of mercy. This saving band had no 
fear — and therefore there was no danger — on 
the edge of the pitfall or the cliff*. They knew 
the countenances of the mountains shown mo- 
mentarily by ghastly gleamings through the 
fitful night, and the hollow sound of each par- 
ticular stream beneath the snow at places 
where in other weather there was a pool or a 
waterfall. The dip of the hills, in spite of the 
drifts, familiar to their feet, did not deceive 
them now; and then, the dogs in their instinct 
were guides that erred not, and as well as the 
shepherds knew it themselves did Fingal know 
that they were anxious to reach Glenco. He 
led the way, as if he were in moonlight; and 
often stood still when they were shifting their 
burden, and whined as if in grief. He knew 
where the bridges were — stones or logs ; and 



wild-fowl feed. And thus Instinct, and Reason, 
and Faith conducted the saving band along — 
and now they are at Glenco — and at the door 
of the Hut. 

To life were brought the dead; and there at 
midnight sat they up like ghosts. Strange 
seemed they — for a while — to each other's 
eyes — and at each other they looked as if they 
had forgotten how dearly once they loved. 
Then as if in holy fear they gazed on each 
other's faces, thinking that they had awoke 
together in heaven. "Flora!" said Ranald — 
and that sweet word, the first he had been 
able to speak, reminded him of all that had 
passed, and he knew that the God in whom 
they had put their trust had sent them deliver- 
ance. Flora, too, knew her parents, who were 
on their knees — and she strove to rise up and 
kneel down beside them — but she was power- 
less as a broken reed — and when she thought 
to join them in thanksgiving, her voice was 
gone. Still as death sat all the people in the 
hut- — and one or two who were fathers were 
not ashamed to weep. 

Who were they — the solitary pair — all alone 
by themselves save a small image of her on 
)Whose breast it lay — whom — seven summers 
after — we came upon in our wanderings, be- 
fore their Shieling in Correi-Vollach at the foot 
of Ben Chrulas, who sees his shadow in a hun- 
dred lochs'? Who but Ranald and Flora ! 

****** 

Nay, dry up — Daughter of our Age, dry up 
thy tears ! and we shall set a vision before 
thine eyes to fill them with unmoistened light. 

Oft before have those woods and waters — 
those clouds and mountains — that sun and sky, 
held thy spirit in Elysium, — thy spirit, that then 
was disembodied, and living in the beauty and 
the glory of the elements. 'Tis Windermere 
— Winderthere ! Never canst thou have for- 
gotten those more than fortunate — those thrice- 
blessed Isles ! But when last we saw them 
within the still heaven of thy smiling eyes, 
summer suns had overloaded them with beauty, 
and they stooped their flowers and foliage down 
to the blushing, the burning deep, that glowed 
in its transparency with other groves as gorge- 
ous as themselves, the whole mingling mass 
of reality and of shadow forming one creation. 
But now, lo ! Windermere in Winter. All 
leafless now the groves that girdled her as if 
shifting rainbows were in love perpetually let- 
ting fall their colours on the Queen of Lakes. 
Gone now are her banks of emerald that car- 
ried our calm gazings with them, sloping away 
back into the cerulean sky. Her mountains, 
shadowy in sunshine, and seeming restless as 
seas, where are they now? — The cloud-cleav- 
ing cliffs that shot up into the blue region where 
the buzzard sailed 1 All gone. But mourn not 
for that loss. Accustom thine eye — and through 
it thy soul to that transcendent substitution, and 
deeply will they be reconciled. Sawest thou 
ever the bosom of the Lake hushed into pro- 
founder rest 1 No white-winged pinnace glides 
through the sunshine — no clanking oar is 
heard leaving or approaching cape, point, or 
bay — no music of voice, stop, or string, wakens 
the sleeping echoes. How strangely dim and 



he rounded the marshes where at springs the I confused on the water the fantastic frostwork 



156 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



imagery, yet more steadfastly hanging there 
than ever hung the banks of summer! For 
all one sheet of ice, now clear as the Glass of 
Glamoury in which that Lord of old beheld his 
Geraldine — is Windermere, the heaven-loving 
and the heaven-beloved. Not a wavelet mur- 
murs in all her bays, from the silvan Brathay 
to where the southern straits narrow into a 
river — now chained too, the Leven, on his sil- 
van course towards that perilous Estuary afar 
off raging on its wreck-strewn sands. The 
frost came after the last fall of snow — and not 
a single flake ever touched that surface ; and 
now that you no longer miss the green twink- 
ling of the large July leaves, does not imagina- 
tion love those motionless frozen forests, cold 
but not. dead, serene but not sullen, inspirative 
in the strangeness of their apparelling of wild 
thoughts about the scenery of foreign climes, 
far away among the regions of the North, 
where Nature works her wonders aloof from 
human eyes, and that wild architect Frost, 
during the absence of the sun, employs his 
night of months in building and dissolving his 
ice-palaces, magnificent beyond the reach of 
any power set to work at the bidding of earth's 
crowned and sceptred kings? All at once a 
hundred houses, high up among the hills, seem 
on fire. The setting sun has smitten them, and 
the snow-tracts are illuminated by harmless 
conflagrations. Their windows are all lighted 
up by a lurid splendour, in its strong sudden- 
ness sublime. But look, look, we beseech you, 
at the sun — the sunset — the sunset region — 
and all that kindred and corresponding heaven, 
effulgent, where a minute ago lay in its cold 
glitter the blue bosom of the lake. Who knows 
the laws of light and the perpetual miracle of 
their operation 1 God — not thou. The snow- 
mountains are white no more, but gorgeous in 
their colouring as the clouds. Lo ! Pavey-Ark 
— magnificent range of cliffs — seeming to come 
forward, while you gaze ! — How it glows with 
a rosy light, as if a flush of flowers decked the 
precipice in that delicate splendour ! Lang- 
dale-Pikes, methinks, are tinged with finest 
purple, and the thought of violets is with us 
as we gaze on the tinted bosom of the moun- 
tains dearest to the setting sun. But that long 
broad slip of orange-coloured sky is yellowing 
with its reflection almost all the rest of our 
Alps — all but yon stranger — the summit of 
some mountain belonging to another region — 
ay — the Great Gabel — silent now as sleep — 
when last we clomb his cliffs, thundering in 
the mists of all his cataracts. In his shroud 
he stands pallid like a ghost. Beyond the reach 
of the setting sun he lours in his exclusion 
from the rejoicing light, and imagination, per- 
sonifying his solitary vastness into forsaken 
life, pities the doom of the forlorn Giant. Ha! 
just as the eye of day is about to shut, one 
smile seems sent afar to that lonesome moun- 
tain, and a crown of crimson encompasses his 
forehead. 

On which of the two sunsets art thou now 
gazing ? Thou who art to our old loving eyes 
so like the " mountain nymph, sweet Liberty ?" 
On the sunset in the heaven — or the sunset in 
the lake ? The divine truth is — O Daughter 
of our Age ! — that both sunsets are but visions 



of our own spirits. Again both are gone from 
the outward world — and naught remains but a 
forbidden frown of the cold bleak snow. But 
imperishable in thy imagination will both sun- 
sets be — and though it will sometimes retire 
into the recesses of thy memory, and lie there 
among the unsuspected treasures of forgotten 
imagery that have been unconsciously accu- 
mulating there since first those gentle eyes of 
thine had perfect vision given to their depths 
— yet mysteriously brought back from vanish- 
ment by some one single silent thought, to 
which power has been yielding over that bright 
portion of the Past, will both of them some- 
times reappear to thee in solitude — or haply 
when in the very heart of life. And then 
surely a few tears will fall for sake of him — 
then no more seen — by whose side thou stood- 
est, when that double sunset enlarged thy sense 
of beauty, and made thee in thy father's eyes 
the sweetest — best — and brightest poetess — 
whose whole life is musical inspiration — ode, 
elegy, and hymn, sung not in words but in 
looks — sigh-breathed or speechlessly distilled 
in tears flowing from feelings the farthest in 
this world from grief. 

So much, though but little, for the beautiful — 
with, perhaps, a tinge of the sublime. Are the 
two emotions different and distinct — thinkst 
thou, metaphysical critic of the gruesome 
countenance — or modifications of one and the 
same ? 'Tis a puzzling question — and we, 
Sphinx, might wait till doomsday, before you, 
OEdipus, could solve the enigma. Certainly a 
Rose is one thing and Mount JEtna. is another 
— an antelope and an elephant — an insect and 
a man-of-war, both sailing in the sun — a little 
lucid well in which the fairies bathe, and the 
Polar Sea in which Leviathan is " wallowing 
unwieldy, enormous in his gait" — the jewelled 
finger of a virgin bride, and grim Saturn with 
his ring — the upward eye of a kneeling saint, 
and a comet, " that from his horrid hair shakes 
pestilence and war." But let the rose bloom 
on the mouldering ruins of the palace of some 
great king — among the temples of Balbec or 
Syrian Tadmor — and in its beauty, methinks, 
'twill be also sublime. See the antelope bound- 
ing across a raging chasm — up among the 
region of eternal snows on Mont Blanc — and 
deny it, if you please — but assuredly we think 
that there is sublimity in the fearless flight of 
that beautiful creature, to whom nature grudged 
not wings, but gave instead the power of 
plumes to her small delicate limbs, unfractured 
by alighting among the pointed rocks. All 
alone, by your single solitary self, in some 
wade, lifeless desert, could you deny sublimity 
to the unlooked-for hum of "the tiniest insect, or 
to the sudden shiver of the beauty of his gauze- 
wings? Not you, indeed. Stooping down to 
quench your thirst in that little lucid well 
where the fairies bathe, what if you saw the 
image of the evening star shining in some 
strange subterranean world? We suspect 
that you would hold in your breath, and swear 
devoutly that it was sublime. Dead on the 
very evening' of her marriage day is that vir- 
gin bride whose delicacy was so beautiful— 
and as she lies in her white wedding garments 
that serve for a shroud — that emblem of eter- 



THE HOLY CHILD. 



157 



nity and of eternal love, the ring, upon her fin- 
ger — with its encased star shining brightly now 
that her eyes, once stars, are closed — would, me- 
thinks, be sublime to all Christian hearts. In 
comparison with all these beautiful sublimities, 
Mount iEtna, the elephant, the man-of-war, 
Leviathan swimming the ocean-stream, Sa- 



turn with his ring, and with his horrid hair 
the comet — might be all less than nothings. 
Therefore beauty and sublimity are twin feel- 
ings — one and the same birth — seldom insepa- 
rable; — if you still doubt it, become a fire-wor- 
shipper, and sing your morning and evening 
orisons to the rising and the setting sun. 



THE HOLY CHILD. 



This House of ours is a prison — this Study 
of ours a cell. Time has laid his fetters on our 
feet — fetters fine as the gossamer, but strong 
as Samson's ribs, silken-soft to wise submis- 
sion, but to vain impatience galling as cankered 
wound that keeps ceaselessly eating into the 
bone. But while our bodily feel are thus bound 
by an inevitable and inexorable law, our men- 
tal wings are free as those of the lark, the dove, 
or the eagle — and they shall be expanded as 
of yore, in calm or tempest, now touching with 
their tips the bosom of this dearly beloved 
earth, and now aspiring heavenwards, beyond 
the realms of mist and cloud, even unto the 
very core of the still heart of that otherwise 
unapproachable sky which graciously opens 
to receive us on our flight, when, disencum- 
bered of the burden of all grovelling thoughts, 
and strong in spirituality, we exult to soar 

" Beyond this visible diurnal sphere," 

nearing and nearing the native region of its 
own incomprehensible being. 

Now touching, we* said, with their tips the 
bosom of this dearly beloved earth ! How 
sweet that attraction to imagination's wings! 
How delightful in that lower flight to skim 
along the green ground, or as now along the 
soft-bosomed beauty of the virgin snow! We 
were asleep all night long — sound asleep as 
children — while the flakes were falling, ''and 
soft as snow on snow" were all the descendings 
of our untroubled dreams. The moon and all 
her stars were willing that their lustre should 
be veiled by that peaceful shower ; and now 
the sun, pleased with the purity of the morning 
earth, all white as innocence, looks down from 
heaven with a meek unmelting light, and still 
leaves undissolved the stainless splendour. 
There is frost in the air — but he " does his spi- 
riting gently," studding the ground-snow thick- 
ly with diamonds, and shaping the tree-snow 
according to the peculiar and characteristic 
beauty of the leaves and sprays, on which it 
has alighted almost as gently as the dews of 
spring. You know every kind of tree still by 
its own spirit showing itself through that fairy 
veil — momentarily disguised from recognition 
— but admired the more in the sweet surprise 
with which again your heart salutes its fami- 
liar branches, all fancifully ornamented with 
their snow foliage, that murmurs not like the 
green leaves of summer, that like the yellow 
leaves of autumn strews not the earth with de- 



cay, but often melts away into changes so in- 
visible and inaudible that you wonder to find 
that it is all vanished, and to see the old tree 
again standing in its own faint-green glossy 
bark, with its many million buds, which per- 
haps fancy suddenly expands into a power of 
umbrage impenetrable to the sun in Scorpio. 

A sudden burst of sunshine ! bringing back 
the pensive spirit from the past to the present, 
and kindling it, till it dances like light reflected 
from a burning mirror. A cheerful Sun-scene, 
though almost destitute of life. An undulating 
Landscape, hillocky and hilly, but not moun- 
tainous, and buried under the weight of a day 
and night's incessant and continuous snow-fall 
The weather has not been windy — and now 
that the flakes have ceased falling, there is not 
a cloud to be seen, except some delicate braid- 
ings here and there along the calm of the Great 
Blue Sea of Heaven. Most luminous is the 
sun, yet you can look straight on his face, 
almost with unwinking eyes, so mild and mel- 
low is his large light as it overflows the day. 
All enclosures have disappeared, and you in- 
distinctly ken the greater landmarks, such as 
a grove, a wood, a hall, a castle, a spire, a 
village, a town — the faint haze of a far off and 
smokeless city. Most intense is the silence ; 
for all the streams are dumb, and the great 
river lies like a dead serpent in the strath. 
Not dead — for, lo! yonder one of his folds glit- 
ters — and in the glitter you see him moving — 
while all the rest of his sullen length is palsied 
by frost, and looks livid and more livid at 
every distant and more distant winding. What 
blackens on that tower of snow? Crows 
roosting innumerouS'o'ii a huge tree — but they 
caw not in - their hunger. Neither sheep nor 
cattle are to be seen or heard — but they are 
cared for ; — the folds and the farm-yards are all 
full of life— and the ungathered stragglers are 
safe in their instincts. There has been a deep 
fall— but no storm— and the silence, though 
partly that of suffering, is not that of death. 
Therefore, to the imagination, unsaddened by 
the heart, the repose is beautiful. The almost 
unbroken uniformity of the scene — its simple 
and grand monotony— lulls all the thoughts 
and feelings into a calm, over which is breathed 
the gentle excitation of a novel charm, inspir* 
ing many fancies, all of a quiet character. 
Their range, perhaps, is not very extensive, 
but they all regard the homefelt and domestic 
charities of life. And the heart burns as here 




158 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



and there some human dwelling discovers 
itself by a wreath of smoke up the air, or as 
the robin redbreast, a creature that is ever at 
hand, comes flitting before your path with an 
almost pert flutter of his feathers, bold from 
the acquaintanceship he has formed with you 
in severer weather at the threshold or window 
of the tenement, which for years may have 
been the winter sanctuary of the "bird whom 
man loves best," and who bears a Christian 
name in every clime he inhabits. Meanwhile 
the sun waxes brighter and warmer in heaven 
— some insects are in the air, as if that mo- 
ment called to life — and the mosses that may 
yet be visible here and there along the ridge of 
a wall or on the stem of a tree, in variegated 
lustre frost-brightened, seem to delight in the 
snow, and in no other season of the year to be 
so happy as in winter. Such gentle touches 
of pleasure animate one's whole being, and 
connect, by many a fine association, the emo- 
tions inspired by the objects of animate and of 
inanimate nature. 

Ponder on the idea — the emotion of purity — 
and how finely soul-blent is the delight imagi- 
nation feels in a bright hush of new-fallen 
snow ! Some speck or stain — however slight 
— there always seems to be on the most perfect 
whiteness of any other substance — or "dim 
suffusion veils" it with some faint discolour — 
witness even the leaf of the lily or the rose. 
Heaven forbid that we should ever breathe 
aught but love and delight in the beauty of 
these consummate flowers ! But feels not the 
heart, even when the midsummer morning 
sunshine is melting the dews on their fragrant 
bosoms, that their loveliness is "of the earth 
earthy" — faintly tinged or streaked, when at 
the very fairest, with a hue foreboding lan- 
guishment and decay? Not the less for its 
sake are those soulless flowers dear to us — 
thus owning kindred with them whose beauty 
is all soul enshrined for a short while on that 
perishable face. Do we not still regard the 
insensate flowers — so emblematical of what, in 
human life, we do most passionately love and 
profoundly pity — with a pensive emotion, often 
deepening into melancholy that sometimes, ere 
the strong fit subsides, blackens into despair ! 
"What pain doubtless was in the heart of the 
Elegiac Poet of old, when he sighed over the 
transitory beauty of flowers — 

" Conquerimur natura brevis quam gratia Florum !'* 
But over a perfectly pure expanse of night- 
fallen snow, when unaffected by the gentle sun, 
the first fine frost has incrusted it with small 
sparkling diamonds, the prevalent emotion is 
Joy. There is a charm in the sudden and total 
disappearance even of the grassy green. All 
the " old familiar faces" of nature are for a 
while out of sight, and out of mind. That 
white silence shed by heaven over earth carries 
with it, far and wide, the pure peace of another 
region — almost another life. No image is 
there to tell of this restless and noisy world. 
The cheerfulness of reality kindles up our reve- 
rie ere it becomes a dream ; and we are glad 
to feel our whole being complexion ed by the 
passionless repose. If we think at all of hu- 
man life, it is only of the young, the fair, and 



the innocent. " Pure as snow," are words then 
felt to be most holy, as the image of j;ome 
beautiful and beloved being comes and goes 
before our eyes — brought from a far distance 
in this our living world, or from a distance 
further still in a world beyond the grave — the 
image of a virgin growing up sinlessly to wo- 
manhood among her parents' prayers, or of 
some spiritual creature who expired long ago, 
and carried with her her native innocence un- 
stained to heaven. 

Such Spiritual Creature — too spiritual long 
to sojourn below the skies — wert Thou — whose 
rising and whose setting — both most starlike 
— brightened at once all thy native vale, and 
at once left it in darkness. Thy name has 
long slept in our heart — and there let it sleep 
unbreathed — even as, when we are dreaming 
our way through some solitary place, without 
naming it, we bless the beauty of some sweet 
wild-flower, pensively smiling to us through 
the snow. 

The Sabbath returns on which, in the little 
kirk among the hills, we saw thee baptized. 
Then comes a wavering glimmer of five sweet 
years, that to Thee, in all their varieties, were 
but as one delightful season, one blessed life 
— and, finally, that other Sabbath, on which, 
at thy own dying request — between services 
thou wert buried. 

How mysterious are all thy ways and work- 
ings, O gracious Nature ! Thou who art but 
a name given by us to the Being in whom all 
things are and have life. Ere three years old, 
she, whose image is now with us, all over the 
small silvan world that beheld the evanescent 
revelation of her pure existence, was called 
the " Holy Child !" The taint of sin— inherited 
from those who disobeyed in Paradise — seemed 
from her fair clay to have been washed out at 
the baptismal font, and by her first infantine 
tears. So pious people almost believed, look- 
ing on her so unlike all other children, in the 
serenity of that habitual smile that clothed the 
creature's countenance with a wondrous beau- 
ty at an age when on other infants is but faint- 
ly seen the dawn of reason, and their eyes 
look happy just like the thoughtless flowers. 
So unlike all other children — but unlike only 
because sooner than they she seemed to have 
had given to her, even in the communion of 
the cradle, an intimation of the being and 
the providence of God. Sooner, surely, than 
through any other clay that ever enshrouded 
immortal spirit, dawned the light of religion 
on the face of the "Holy Child." 

Her lisping language was sprinkled with 
words alien from common childhood's un- 
certain speech, that murmurs only when in- 
digent nature prompts ; and her own parents 
wondered whence they came, when first they 
looked upon her kneeling in an unbidden 
prayer. As one mild week of vernal sunshine 
covers the braes with primroses, so shone 
with fair and fragrant feeling — unfolded, ere 
they knew, before her parents' eyes — the divine 
nature of her who for a season was lent ta 
them from the skies. She learned to read out 
of the Bible — almost without any teaching — 
they knew not how — just by looking gladly on 
the words, even as she looked on the pretty 



THE HOLY CHILD. 



159 



daisies on the green — till their meanings stole 
insensibly into her soul, and the sweet sylla- 
bles, succeeding each other on the blessed 
page, were all united by the memories her 
heart had been treasuring every hour that her 
father or her mother had read aloud in her 
hearing from the Book of Life. " Suffer little 
children to come unto me, and forbid them not, 
for of such is the kingdom of heaven" — how 
wept her parents, as these the most affecting 
of our Saviour's words dropt silver-sweet from 
her lips, and continued in her upward eyes 
among the swimming tears ! 

Be not incredulous of this dawn of reason, 
wonderful as it may seem to you, so soon be- 
coming morn — almost perfect daylight — with 
the "Holy Child." Many such miracles are 
set before us — but we recognise them not, or 
pass them by with a word or a smile of short 
surprise. How leaps the baby in its mother's 
arms, when the mysterious charm of music 
thrills through its little brain ! And how learns 
it to modulate its feeble voice, unable yet to 
articulate, to the melodies that bring forth all 
round its eyes a delighted smile ! Who knows 
what then may be the thoughts and feelings 
of the infant awakened to the sense of a new 
world, alive through all its being to sounds that 
haply glide past our ears unmeaning as the 
breath of the common air ! Thus have mere 
infants sometimes been seen inspired by music 
till, like small genii, they warbled spell-strains 
of their own, powerful to sadden and subdue 
our hearts. So, too, have infant eyes been so 
charmed by the rainbow irradiating the earth, 
that almost infant hands have been taught, as 
if by inspiration, the power to paint in finest 
colours, and to imitate, with a wondrous art, 
the skies so beautiful to the quick-awakened 
spirit of delight. What knowledge have not 
some children acquired, and gone down 
scholars to their small untimely graves ! 
Knowing that such things have been — are — 
and will be — why art thou incredulous of the 
divine expansion of soul, so soon understand- 
ing the things that are divine — in the " Holy 
Child!" 

Thus grew she in the eye of God, day by 
day waxing wiser and wiser in the knowledge 
that tends towards the skies ; and, as if some 
angel visitant were nightly with her in her 
dreams, awakening every morn with a new 
dream of thought, that brought with it a gift 
of more comprehensive speech. Yet merry 
she was at times with her companions among 
the woods and braes, though while they all 
were laughing, she only smiled ; and the pass- 
ing traveller, who might pause for a moment 
to bless the sweet creatures in their play, could 
not but single out one face among the many 
fair, so pensive in its paleness, a face to be 
remembered, coming from afar, like a mourn- 
ful thought upon the hour of joy. 

Sister or brother of her own had she none — 
and often both her parents — who lived in a 
hut by itself up among the mossy stumps of 
the old decayed forest — had to leave her alone 
— sometimes even all the day long from morn- 
ing till night. But she no more wearied in her 
solitariness than does the wren in the wood. 
All the flowers were her friends— all the birds. 



The linnet ceased not his song for her, though 
her footsteps wandered into the green glade 
among the yellow broom, almost within reach 
of the spray from which he poured his melody 
— the quiet eyes of his mate feared her not 
when her garments almost touched the bush 
where she brooded on her young. Shyest o^ 
the winged silvans, the cushat clapped not 
her wings away on the soft approach of such 
harmless footsteps to the pine that concealed 
her slender nest. As if blown from heaven, 
descended round her path the showers of the 
painted butterflies, to feed, sleep, or die — un- 
disturbed by her — upon the wild-flowers — with 
wings, when motionless, undistinguishable from 
the blossoms. And well she loved the brown, 
busy, blameless bees, come thither for the 
honey-dews from a hundred cots sprinkled all 
over the parish, and all high overhead sailing 
away at evening, laden and wearied, to their 
straw-roofed skeps in many a hamlet garden. 
The leaf of every tree, shrub, and plant, she 
knew familiarly and lovingly in its own cha- 
racteristic beauty ; and she was loath to shake 
one dew-drop from the sweetbrier-rose. And 
well she knew that all nature loved her in 
return — that they were dear to each other in 
their innocence — and that the very sunshine, 
in motion or in rest, was ready to come at the 
bidding of her smiles. Skilful those small 
white hands of hers among the reeds and 
rushes and osiers — and many a pretty flower- 
basket grew beneath their touch, her parents 
wondering on their return home tc. see the 
handiwork of one who was never idle in her 
happiness. Thus early — ere yet but five years 
old — did she earn her mite for the sustenance 
of her own beautiful life. The russet garb she 
wore she herself had won — and thus Poverty, 
at the door of that hut, became even like a 
Guardian Angel, with the lineaments of hea- 
ven on her brow, and the quietude of heaven 
beneath her feet. 

But these were but her lonely pastimes, or 
gentle taskwork self-imposed among her pas- 
times, and itself the sweetest of them all, in- 
spired by a sense of duty that still brings with 
it its own delight, and hallowed by religion, 
that even in the most adverse lot changes 
slavery into freedom — till the heart, insensible 
to the bonds of necessit}^, sings aloud for joy. 
The life within the life of the " Holy Child," 
apart from even such innocent employments 
as these, and from such recreations as inno- 
cent, among the shadows and the sunshine of 
those silvan haunts, was passed — let us fear 
not to say the truth, wondrous as such worship 
was in one so very young — was passed in the 
worship of God ; and her parents — though 
sometimes even saddened to see such piety in 
a small creature like her, and afraid, in their 
exceeding love, that it betokened an early re- 
moval from this world of one too perfectly pure 
ever to be touched by its sins and sorrows- 
forbore, in an awful pity, ever to remove the 
Bible from her knees, as she would sit with it 
there, not at morning and at evening only, or 
all the Sabbath long as soon as they returned 
from the kirk, but often through all the hours 
of the longest and sunniest week-days, when, 
had she chosen to do so, there was nothing to 



160 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



hinder her from going up the hill-side, or down 
to the little village, to play with the other chil- 
dren, always too happy when she appeared — 
nothing to hinder her but the voice she heard 
speaking in that Book, and the hallelujahs 
that, at the turning over of each blessed page, 
came upon the ear of the "Holy Child" from 
white-robed saints all kneeling before His 
throne in heaven. 

Her life seemed to be the same in sleep. 
Often at midnight, by the light of the moon 
shining in upon her little bed beside theirs, 
her parents leant over her face, diviner in 
dreams, and wept as she wept, her lips all the 
while murmuring, in broken sentences of 
prayer, the name of Him who died for us all. 
But plenteous as were her penitential tears — 
penitential in the holy humbleness of her stain- 
less spirit, over thoughts that had never left a 
dimming breath on its purity, yet that seemed 
in those strange visitings to be haunting her as 
the shadows of sins — soon were they all dried 
up in the lustre of her returning smiles. Wak- 
ing, her voice in the kirk was the sweetest 
among many sweet, as all the young singers, 
and she the youngest far, sat together by them- 
selves, and within the congregational music 
of the psalm uplifted a silvery strain that 
sounded like the very spirit of the whole, even 
like angelic harmony blent with a mortal song. 
But sleeping, still more sweetly sang the "Holy 
Child;" and then, too, in some diviner inspi- 
ration than ever was granted to it while awake, 
her soul composed its own hymns, and set the 
simple scriptural words to its own. mysterious 
music — the tunes she loved best gliding into 
one another, without once ever marring the 
melody, with pathetic touches interposed never 
heard before, and never more to be renewed ! 
For each dream had its own breathing, and 
many-visioned did then seem to be the sinless 
creature's sleep. 

The love that was borne for h-er all over the 
hill-region, and beyond its circling clouds, was 
almost such as mortal creatures might be 
thought to feel for some existence that had 
visibly come from heaven. Yet all who looked 
on her, saw that she, like themselves,' was 
mortal, and many an eye was wet, the heart 
wist not why, to hear such wisdom falling 
from such lips ; for dimly did it prognosticate, 
that as short as bright would be her walk from 
the cradle to the grave. And thus for the 
" Holy Child " was their love elevated by awe, 
and saddened by pity — and as by herself she 
passed pensively by their dwellings, the same 
eyes that smiled on her presence, on her dis- 
appearance wept. 

Not in vain for others — and for herself, oh ! 
what great gain ! — for those few years on earth 
did that pure spirit ponder on the word of God ! 
Other children became pious from their delight 
in her piety — for she was simple as the 
simplest among them all, and walked with 
them hand in hand, nor declined companion- 
ship with any one that was good. But all 
grew good by being with her — and parents 
had but to whisper her name, and in a mo- 
ment the passionate sob was hushed — the 
lowering brow lighted — and the household in 
fmace. Older hearts owned the power of the 



piety so far surpassing their thoughts; and 
time-hardened sinners, it is said, when looking 
and listening to the "Holy Child," knew the 
error of their ways, and returned to the right 
path as at a voice from heaven. 

Bright was her seventh summer — the bright- 
est, so the aged said, that had ever, in man's 
memory, shone over Scotland. One long, still, 
sunny, blue day followed another, and in the 
rainless weather, though the dews kept green 
the hills, the song of the streams was low 
But paler and paler, in sunlight and moon 
light, became the sweet face that had been 
always pale; and the voice that had been al- 
ways something mournful, breathed lower and 
sadder still from the too perfect whiteness of 
her breast. No need — no fear — to tell her that 
she was about to die. Sweet whispers had 
sung it to her in her sleep — and waking she 
knew it in the look of the piteous skies. But 
she spoke not to her parents of death more 
than she had often done — and never of her 
own. Only she seemed to love them with a 
more exceeding love — and was readier, even 
sometimes when no one was speaking, with a 
few drops of tears. Sometimes she disap- 
peared — nor, when sought for, was found in 
the woods about the hut. And one day that 
mystery was cleared ; for a shepherd saw her 
sitting by herself on a grassy mound in a nook 
of the small solitary kirkyard, a long mile off 
among the hills, so lost in reading the Bible, 
that shadow or sound of his feet awoke her 
not; and, ignorant of his presence, she knelt 
down and prayed — for a while weeping bitter- 
ly — but soon comforted by a heavenly calm — 
that her sins might be forgiven her ! 

One Sabbath evening, soon after, as she was 
sitting beside her parents at the door of their 
hut, looking first for a long while on their 
faces, and then for a long while on the sky, 
though it was not yet the stated hour of wor- 
ship, she suddenly knelt down, and leaning on 
their knees, with hands clasped more fervently 
than her wont, she broke forth into tremulous 
singing of that hymn which from her lips they 
never heard without unendurable tears : 

"The hour of my departure's come, 
I hear the voice that calls me home ; 
At last, O Lord, let trouble cease, 
And let thy servant die in peace !" 

They carried her fainting to her little bed, and 
uttered not a word to one another till she re- 
vived. The shock was sudden, but not unex- 
pected, and they knew now that the hand of 
death was upon her, although her eyes soon 
became brighter and brighter, they thought, 
than they had ever been before. But forehead, 
cheeks, lips, neck, and breast, were all as 
white, and, to the quivering hands that touched 
them, almost as cold, as snow. Ineffable was 
the bliss in those radiant eyes; but the breath 
of words was frozen, and that hymn was al- 
most her last farewell. Some few words she 
spake — and named the hour and day she 
wished to be buried. Her lips could then 
just faintly return the kiss, and no more — a 
film came over the now dim blue of her eyes 
— the father listened for her breath — and then 
the mother took his place, and leaned her ear 
to the unbreathing mouth, long deluding her- 



OUR PARISH. 



161 



self with its lifelike smile ; but a sudden dark- 
ness in the room, and a sudden stillness, most 
dreadful both, convinced their unbelieving 
hearts at last, that it was death. 

All the parish, it may be said, attended her 
funeral — for none stayed away from the kirk 
that Sabbath — though many a voice was un- 
able to join in the Psalm. The little grave 
was soon filled up — and you hardly knew that 
the turf had been disturbed beneath which she 
lay. The afternoon service consisted but of a 
prayer — for he who ministered, had loved her 
with love unspeakable — and, though an old 
grayhaired man, all the time he prayed he 
wept. In the sobbing kirk her parents were 
sitting, but no one looked at them — and when 
the congregation rose to go, there they re- 
mained sitting — and an hour afterwards, came 
out again into the open air, and parting with 
their pastor at the gate, walked away to their 
hut, overshadowed with the blessing of a thou- 
sand prayers. 

And did her parents, soon after she was bu- 
ried, die of broken hearts, or pine away dis- 
consolately to their graves 1 Think not that 
they, who were Christians indeed, could be 



guilty of such ingratitude. " The Lord giveth, 
and the Lord taketh away — blessed be the 
name of the Lord !" were the first words they 
had spoke by that bedside ; during many, many 
long years of weal or wo, duly every morning 
and night, these same blessed words did they 
utter when on their knees together in prayer 
— and many a thousand times besides, when 
they were apart, she in her silent hut, and he 
on the hill — neither of them unhappy in their 
solitude, though never again, perhaps, was 
his countenance so cheerful as of yore — and 
though often suddenly amidst mirth or sun- 
shine their eyes were seen to overflow. Hap- 
py had they been — as we mortal beings ever 
can be happy — during many pleasant years 
of wedded life before she had been born. And 
happy were they — on to the verge of old age 
— long after she had here ceased to be. Their 
Bible had indeed been an idle book — the Bible 
that belonged to " the Holy Child," — and idle 
all their kirk-goings with "the Holy Child," 
through the Sabbath-calm — had those inter- 
mediate years not left a power of bliss be- 
hind them triumphant over death and the 
grave. 



OUR PARISH. 



Nature must be bleak and barren indeed to 
possess no power over the young spirit daily 
expanding on her breast into new suscepti- 
bilities, that erelong are felt to fill life to over- 
flowing with a perpetual succession — an infi- 
nite series — of enjoyments. Nowhere is she 
destitute of that power — not on naked sea- 
shores — not in central deserts. But our boy- 
hood was environed by the beautiful — its home 
was among moors and mountains, which peo- 
ple in towns and cities called dreary, but 
which we knew to be the cheerfullest and most 
gladsome parish in all braid Scotland — and 
well it might be, for it was in her very heart. 
Mountains they seemed to us in those days, 
though now we believe they are only hills. But 
such hills ! — undulating far and wide away till 
the highest even on clear days seemed to touch 
the sky, and in cloudy weather were verily a 
part of heaven. Many a valley, and many a 
glen — and many a hollow that was neither 
valley nor glen — and many a flat, of but a 
few green acres, which we thought plains — 
and many a cleft waterless with its birks and 
brechans, except when the rains came down, 
and then they all sang a new song in merry 
chorus — and many a wood, and many a grove, 
for it takes no great number of trees to make 
a wood, and four firs by themselves in a lone- 
some place are a grove — and many a single 
sycamore, and many a single ash, kenned afar- 
off above its protected cottage — and many an 
indescribable spot of scenery, at once pastoral 
and agricultural and silvan, where if house 
there was, you hardly knew it among the 
rocks ;— -so was Our Parish, which people in 
21 



towns and cities called dreary, composed; but 
the composition itself— as well might we hope 
thus to show it to your soul's eye, as by a few 
extracts however fine, and a few criticisms 
however exquisite, to give you the idea of a 
perfect poem. 

But we have not given you more than a sin- 
gle hint of a great part of oui Parish — the 
Moor. It was then ever so many miles long, 
and ever so many miles broad, and nobody 
thought of guessing how many miles round — 
but some twenty years ago it was absolutely 
measured to a rood by a land-louper of a land- 
surveyor — distributed — drained — enclosed — 
utterly ruined for ever. No, not for ever. Na- 
ture laughs to scorn acts of Parliament, and we 
predict that in a quarter of a century she will 
resume her management of that moor. We 
rejoice to hear that she is beginning already 
to take lots of it into her own hands. Wheat 
has no business there, and should keep to the 
carses. In spring she takes him by the braird 
till he looks yellow in the face long before his 
time — in summer, by the cuff of the neck till 
he lies down on his back and rots in the rain 
— in autumn, by the ears, and rubs him against 
the grain till he expires as fushionless as the 
winnlestraes with which he is interlaced — in 
winter, she shakes him in the stook till he is 
left but a shadow which pigeons despise. See 
him in stack at Christmas, and you pity the poor 
straw. Here and there bits of bear or big, and 
barley, she permits to flourish — nor is she loth 
to see the flowers and shaws and apples oft 
the poor man's plant, the life-sustaining potato 
— which none but political economists hate and 
o2 



162 



RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. 



all Christians love. She is not so sure about 
turnips, but as they are a green crop she 
leaves them to the care of the fly. But where 
have her gowans gone? There they still are 
in flocks, which no cultivation can scatter or 
eradicate — inextinguishable by all the lime 
that was ever brought unslokened from all the 
kilns that ever glowed— by all the dung that 
was ever heaped up fresh and fuming from all 
the Augean stables in the land. Yet her heart 
burns within her to behold, even in the midst 
of what she abhors, the large dew-loved heads 
of clover whitening or reddening, or with their 
rival colours amicably intermingled, a new 
birth glorious in the place of reedy marish or 
fen where the catspaws nodded — and them 
she will retain unto herself when once more 
she shall rejoice in her Wilderness Restored. 

And would we be so barbarous as to seek 
to impede the progress of improvement, and 
to render agriculture a dead letter? We are 
not so barbarous nor yet so savage. We love 
civilized life, of which we have long been one 
of the smaller but sincerest ornaments. But 
agriculture, like education, has its bounds. It 
is, like it, a science, and wo to the country 
that encourages all kinds of quacks. Cultivate 
a moor ! educate a boor ! First understand 
the character of Clods and Clodhoppers. To 
say nothing of the Urban s and Suburbans — a 
perilous people — yet of great capabilities; for 
to discuss that question would lead us into 
lanes ; and as it is a long lane that has never 
a turning, for the present we keep in the open 
air, and abstain from wynds. We are no ene- 
mies to poor soils, far less to rich ones igno- 
rantly and stupidly called poor, which under 
proper treatment effuse riches; but to expect 
to extract from paupers a return for the expen- 
diture squandered by miserly greed on their 
reluctant bottoms, cold and bare, is the in- 
sanity of speculation, and such schemers de- 
serve being buried along with their capital in 
quagmires. Heavens ! how they — the quag- 
mires — suck in the dung ! You say they don't 
suck it in — well, then, they spew it out — it 
evaporates — and what is the worth of weeds ? 
Lime whitens a moss, that is true, but so does 
snow. Snow melts — what becomes of lime 
no mortal knows but the powheads — them it 
poisons, and they give up the ghost. Drains 
are dug deep now-a-days — and we respect Mr. 
Johnstone. So are gold mines. But from 
gold mines that precious metal — at a great 
expense, witness its price — is exterred; in 
drains, that precious metal, witness wages, is 
interred, and then it becomes squash. Stirks 
starve — heifers are hove with windy nothing 
— with oxen frogs compete in bulk with every 
prospect of a successful issue, and on such 
pasturage where would be the virility of the 
Bulls of Bashan? 

If we be in error, we shall be forgiven at 
least by all lovers of the past, and what to the 
elderly seems the olden time. Oh, misery for 
that Moor ! Hundreds, thousands, loved it as 
weL as we did ; for though it grew no grain, 
many a glorious crop it bore — shadows that 
glided like ghosts — the giants stalked — the 
dwarfs crept; — yet sometimes were the dwarfs 
move formidable than the giants, lying like 



blackamoors before your very feet, and as you 
stumbled over them in the dark, throttling as 
as if they sought to strangle you, and then 
leaving you at your leisure to wipe from your 
mouth the mire by the light of a straggling 
star; — sunbeams that wrestled with the sha- 
dows in the gloom — sometimes clean flung, 
and then they cowered into the heather, and 
insinuated themselves into the earth; some- 
times victorious, and then how they capered 
in the lift, ere they shivered away — not always 
without a hymn of thunder — in behind the 
clouds, to refresh themselves in their taber- 
nacle in the sky. 

Won't you be done with this Moor, you mo- 
nomaniac? Not for yet a little while— for we 
see Kitty North all by himself in the heart of 
it, a boy apparently about the age of twelve, 
and happy as the day is long, though it is the 
Longest Day in all the year. Aimless he 
seems to be, but all alive as a grasshopper, and 
is leaping like a two-year-old across the hags. 
Were he to tumble in, what would become of 
the personage whom Kean's Biographer would 
call " the future Christopher the First." But 
no fear of that — for at no period of his life did 
he ever overrate his powers — and he knows 
now his bound to an inch. Cap, bonnet, hat, 
he has none ; and his yellow hair, dancing on 
his shoulders like a mane, gives' him the look 
of a precocious lion's whelp. Leonine too is 
his aspect, yet mild withal; and but for a 
certain fierceness in his gambols, you would 
not suspect he was a young creature of prey. 
A fowling-piece is in his left hand, and in his 
right a rod. And what may he be purposing 
to shoot ? Any thing full-fledged that may 
play whirr or sugh. Good grouse-ground this ; 
but many are yet in the egg, and the rest are 
but cheepers — little bigger than the small 
brown moorland bird that goes burling up with 
its own short epithalamium, and drops down 
on the rushes still as a stone. Them he harms 
not on their short flight — but marking them 
down, twirls his piece like a fugleman, and 
thinks of the Twelfth. Safer methinks wilt 
thou be a score or two yards further off, O 
Whawp ! for though thy young are yet callow, 
Kit is beginning to think they may shift for 
themselves ; and that long bill and that long 
neck, and those long legs and that long body 
— the tout-ensemble so elegant, so graceful, and 
so wild — are a strong temptation to the trigger; 
— click — clack — whizz — phew — fire — smoke 
and thunder — head-over-heels topsy-turvy goes 
the poor curlew — and Kit stands over him 
leaning on his single-barrel, with a stern but 
somewhat sad aspect, exulting in his skill, yet 
sorry for the creature whose wild cry will be 
heard no more. 

'Tis an oasis in the desert. That green spot 
is called a quagmire — an ugly name enough — 
but itself is beautiful ; for it diffuses its own 
light round about it, like a star vivifying its 
halo. The sward encircling it is firm — and 
Kit lays him down, heedless of the bird, with 
eyes fixed on the oozing spring. How fresh 
the wild cresses ! His very eyes are drinking ! 
His thirst is at once excited and satisfied by 
looking at the lustrous leaves — composed of 
cooling light without spot or stain. What 



OUR PARISH. 



163 



ails the boy? He covers his face with his 
hands, and in his silence sighs. A small white 
hand, with its fingers spread, rises out of the 
spring, as if it were beckoning to heaven in 
prayer — and then is sucked slowly in again 
out of sight with a gurgling groan. The 
spring so fresh and fair — so beautiful with its 
cresses and many another water-loving plant 
beside — is changed into the same horrid quag- 
mire it was that day — a holyday — three years 
ago — when racing in her joy Amy Lewars 
blindly ran into it, among her blithe com- 
panions, and suddenly perished. Childhood, 
they say, soon dries its tears, and soon forgets. 
God be praised for all his goodness ! true it is 
that on the cheek of childhood tears are dried 
up as if by the sunshine of joy stealing from 
on high — but, God be praised for all his good- 
ness ! false it is that the heart of childhood has 
not a long memory, for in a moment the 
mournful past revives within it — as often as 
the joyful — sadness becomes sorrow, sorrow 
grief, and grief anguish, as now it is with the 
solitary boy seated by that ghastly spot in the 
middle of the wide moor. 

Away he flies, and he is humming a tune. 
But what's this? A merry-making in the 
moor? Ay, merry-making; but were you to 
take part in it, you would find it about the 
hardest work that ever tried the strength of 
your spine. 'Tis a party of divotflaughters. 
The people in the parish are now digging their 
peats, and here is a whole household, provident 
of winter, borrowing fuel from the moss. 
They are far from coals, and wood is intended 
by nature for other uses ; but fire in peat she 
dedicated to the hearth, and there it burns all 
over Scotland, Highland and Lowland, far and 
near, at many a holy altar. 'Tis the mid-day 
hour of rest. Some are half-asleep, some yet 
eating, some making a sort of under-voiced, 
under-hand love. "Mr. North! Mr. North ! 
Mr. North !" is the joyful cry — horny-fists first 
— downy-fists next — and after heartiest greet- 
ing, Master Kitty is installed, enthroned on a 
knowe, Master of the Ceremonies— and in good 
time gives them a song. Then " galliards cry 
a hall, a hall," and hark and lo ! preluded by 
six smacks — three foursome reels ! " Sic 
hirdum-dirdum and sic din," on the sward, to 
a strathspey frae the fiddle o' auld blin' Hugh 
Lyndsay, the itinerant musicianer, who was 
noways particular about the number of his 
strings, and when one, or even two snapped, 
used to play away at pretty much of the same 
tune with redoubled energy and variations. 
He had the true old Niel-Gow yell, and had he 
played on for ever, folk would have danced on 
for ever till they had all, one after the other, 
dropped down dead. What steps ! 

"Who will try me," cries Kit, " at loup-the- 
barrows?" " I will," quoth Souple Tam. The 
barrows are laid — how many side by side we 
fear to say — for we have become sensitive on 
our veracity — on a beautiful piece of springy- 
turf, an inclined plane with length sufficient 
for a run; and while old and young line both 
sides of the lane near the loup, stript to the 
sark and the brceks, Souple Tam, as he fondly 
thinks, shows the way to win, and clears them 
all like a frog or a roebuck. " Clear the way, 



clear the way for the callant, Kit's coming!'* 
cries Ebenezer Brackenrigg, the Elder, a douce 
man now, but a deevil in his youth, and like 
" a waffo' lichtnin' " past their een, Kit clears 
the barrows a foot beyond Souple Tam, and 
at the first fly is declared victor by acclamation. 
Oh, our unprophetic soul! did the day indeed 
dawn — many long years after this our earliest 
great conquest yet traditional in the parish 
— that ere nightfall witnessed our defeat by 
—a tailor! The Flying Tailor of Etterick — 
the Lying Shepherd thereof— would they had 
never been born — the one to triumph and the 
other to record that triumph ;— yet let us be 
just to the powers of our rival — for though all 
the world knows we were lame when we leapt 
him, long past our prime, had been wading all 
day in the Yarrow with some stones-weight in 
our creel, and allowed him a yard, 
"Great must I call him, for he vanquish'd me." 
What a place at night was that Moor! At 
night ! That is a most indeterminate mode of 
expression, for there are nights of all sorts and 
sizes, and wdiat kind of a night do we mean ? 
Not a mirk night, for no man ever walked that 
moor on a mirk night, except one, and he, 
though blind-fou, was drowned. But a night 
may be dark without being mirk, with or with- 
out stars ; and on many such a night have we, 
but not always alone — who was with us you 
shall never know — threaded our way with no 
other clue than that of evolving recollections, 
originally notices, across that wilderness of 
labyrinths, fearlessly,, yet at times with a beat- 
ing heart. Our companion had her clue too, 
one in her pocket, of blue worsted, with which 
she kept in repair all the stockings belonging 
to the family, and one in her memory, of green 
ethereal silk, which, finer far than any spider's 
web, she let out as she tript along the moor, 
and on her homeward-way she felt, by some 
spiritual touch, the invisible lines, along which 
she retript as safely as if they had been moon- 
beams. During such journeyings we never 
saw the moor, how then can you expect us to 
describe it? 

But oftener we were 'alone. Earthquakes